FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers, Family Members and others who may be looking for someone to help with medical-related issues and other problems have a ready resource at Fort Drum. Ombudsmen are Department of the Army civilian employees who have been selected for their experience, determination and passion to help Soldiers.
"(Although) all other resources may have been apparently exhausted, we continue to march until the issue is resolved," said John Maniscalco, Guthrie Ambulatory Health Clinic ombudsman.
John Maniscalco, left, and John Fish, Guthrie Ambulatory Health Clinic ombudsmen, focus on helping wounded warriors and their Family members, although they also may assist active-duty Army, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers and their Families as well as veterans and military retirees. (courtesy photo)
Ombudsmen affiliated with the Army Medical Command's Medical Assistance Group are available to help with all kinds of issues. Although their primary focus is on helping wounded warriors and their Family Members, ombudsmen also may assist active-duty Army, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers and their Families, as well as veterans and military retirees.
"MEDCOM sent us here to be an independent, neutral and impartial resource for Soldiers, veterans and Family Members and to address their concerns and speak on their behalf if necessary," Maniscalco said.
John Fish, Maniscalco’s colleague, said that ombudsmen have been instrumental in resolving issues faced by Soldiers assigned to Warrior Transition Units while healing or awaiting a Physical or Medical Evaluation Board. "We are (composed) of retired senior NCOs, officers and experienced civilian personnel,” Fish said.
“The ombudsman serves as another Soldier resource, to assist them in resolving issues that the Soldier or Family Member has been unable to resolve through normal channels,” he continued. “For those who are retired Army, we have walked down the same paths as some of our clients. With that knowledge and experience, we can reach out and resolve issues easier than most other agencies."
Many of the issues are complex or seemingly overwhelming. They include, but are not limited to, health care, physical disability processing, reserve component medical retention, transition to the Veterans Affairs and administrative issues. An ombudsman is a Soldier resource and not a means of circumventing the chain of command. They also work closely with the MEDCOM Medical Assistance Group to assist with issues that come through the Armywide Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline.
"Soldiers and Family Members can call us directly during the work week or reach us through the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline 24/7," Maniscalco said. The toll-free hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-984-8523 or DSN 863-421-3700.
According to Fish, ombudsmen who receive calls for assistance via the "hotline" are required to contact the caller within 24 hours and interview him or her to understand the nature of the complaint.
"Our goal is to resolve a hotline issue within 48 to 72 hours," Fish said. "If we cannot resolve the matter locally, we will ask for assistance from the MMAG, located at Medical Command, Fort Sam Houston, Texas,” he added.
Fort Drum's ombudsmen are located in Bldg. 29, Lewis Avenue, behind Behavior Health. Their offices are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call Maniscalco at 772-6466 or 405-6249 (cell), or Fish at 772-9658 or 408-6972 (cell). Information also is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fort Drum Ombudsmen for The Mountaineer