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Speaking with Sailors.

As an aviator, before going on any flight, I have to know where my safe havens are. Where do I go if I have an emergency? Where do I go if an engine fails in-flight? Where do I go when the weather turns bad?

When the weather is stormy and the seas are rough, every ship in our fleet needs a safe harbor--a place where it can go to get through the tough times. Every one of us needs a safe harbor at times. Sailors who are seriously injured or ill now have a place to turn, a network of support and an advocate who will champion their issues and concerns. Someone who will help.

The Navy's seriously ill and injured support program, Safe Harbor, stood up in 2005. It is a Navywide program under Vice Chief of Naval Operations and the Special Assistant to CNO for Comprehensive Casualty Care to ensure seriously injured personnel and their families receive the best possible support and care when dealing with personal challenges from the time of injury through transition and beyond. This program extends a hand to Sailors and their families and assists with recovery, benefits, exploring career opportunities and readjustment as they return to duty or reintegrate into their community if medically separated or retired.

This year, the mission of Safe Harbor expanded to provide non-medical care management not only to seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and their families but also to tracking and overseeing the Navy's non-seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors.

Eligibility is not limited to only combat-related wounds or injuries but is also extended to those Sailors seriously injured in shipboard or liberty accidents - like motor vehicle accidents - or those who incur a serious illness, whether physical or psychological.

The aim of the program is simple. Safe Harbor provides a lifetime of care. We support and assist Sailors through every phase: recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration. In short, we take care of our own by working with other agencies to make sure our Sailors get the support they need.

The program leverages existing capabilities of established service providers - such as medical treatment facilities, Fleet and Family Support Centers, casualty assistance, retired activities programs, personnel support detachments and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Department of Labor (DOL), Veterans Administration (VA), Military OneSource and the DoD Wounded Warrior Resource Center--to provide a seamless transition for injured Sailors and their families.


Safe Harbor's non-medical care managers assist Sailors and their families by bridging gaps in support and providing information and education to facilitate timely and effective access to required services. Care management support is individually tailored to meet the unique needs of each Sailor and family. Assistance encompasses pay and personnel issues, invitational travel orders, lodging and housing adaptation, child and youth programs, transportation needs, legal and guardianship issues, education and training benefits, commissary and exchange access, respite care, traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress support services and much more.

The Safe Harbor Care manager will identify and take action to resolve issues or concerns raised by the patient or the family. This continuum of patient assistance by the care manager will remain available upon release from a particular military treatment facility. Navy Safe Harbor non-medical care managers are located at major Navy treatment facilities throughout the United States, VA Polytrauma Centers and Brooke Army Medical in San Antonio.

A key component of the program is to assist Safe Harbor patients as they either return to active duty or seek employment upon completion of treatment. Our goal is for every patient to return to active duty. Regrettably, some service members have sustained injuries that will make remaining on active duty difficult, and many will choose to separate or retire. In these cases, the patient and their families are supported to the fullest extent possible as they transition to veteran's status under the VA. Once a Sailor is enrolled in Safe Harbor, they remain in Safe Harbor for life. DOL and VA are among the primary providers of employment assistance. However, by maintaining close coordination with the member during the recovery phase, they can benefit from the knowledge of possible civil service opportunities, civilian job opportunities or benefit from assistance in setting employment goals.

My vision for Safe Harbor is to be recognized as the gold standard of care throughout the wounded, ill and injured community because of the customized, world-class support that we provide to each and every one of our Safe Harbor Sailors and their families.

I encourage Sailors who need a safe harbor to reach out to those of us who can--and want--to help. We're here for you. The Safe Harbor website and toll free number will provide free access to program support, services and information.

Editor's note: Information is available at The Navy Safe Harbor team can be reached at or toll-free at 1-877-746-8563.

Capt. Key Watkins, Commanding Officer, Safe Harbor
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Author:Watkins, Key
Publication:All Hands
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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