By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON — While military medics have been hailed for their bravery and lifesaving skills on the battlefield, many are out of work once they leave the military.
Nearly 100,000 Army veterans applied for unemployment in FY 2011, and nearly 3,000 of those were Army medics, said OIF veteran and Victory Media senior vice president Daniel Nichols in a House subcommittee hearing held over the summer.
“They were the third-largest military occupational specialty to do so,” he said, citing Unemployment Compensation FY 2011 data. “There is a problem, and we have not yet solved it.”
One barrier to employment, according to Nichols and other advocates, is that state licensing requirements often require military medics to redo their medical training in order to receive the certification necessary to be hired for a civilian EMS job.
Ben Chlapek, a recently retired Army veteran who spoke to the committee on behalf of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, said that medics “receive some of the best training in the world and are some of the best there are at trauma care and other facets of medical care.”
U.S. soldiers serving with 1st Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, and C Company, 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division treat a wounded Afghan National Police officer on Forward Operating Base Warrior, Ghazni province, Afghanistan, July 1, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew Claire Bake.
Despite their advanced medical training, however, Navy independent duty corpsmen, Navy SEAL medics, Army special forces medics and Air Force special operations pararescue medics are often required to go through a yearlong paramedic class and several hundred clinical hours before they can take the test for licensure in the civilian sector, he explained. In reality, the former medics should be ready to take the certification test with a one-week refresher training, he said.
“Most of these medics can put external fixation devices on mangled limbs to restore an anatomical structure. … They can put in chest tubes. They routinely perform surgical procedures, and some are even trained in vascular surgery so we can tie vessels back together and restore circulation in the field in austere environments, when we have to maintain a patient for more than 72 hours,” Chlapek said. “These are procedures that are normally reserved for emergency rooms, operating rooms and trauma suites.”
According to how long since their licenses expired, unlicensed basic combat medics, Navy corpsmen or Air Force medics often are not permitted to take the EMT licensure test without first taking a full EMT course, which Chlapek deemed unnecessary.
“[They] have all of the training they need to challenge the test and should be allowed to do so,” he said in written testimony. “If they are rusty or need a review in a specific area, a weekend of refresher is plenty to prepare them for the test.”
Some states have made adjustments to their credentialing processes for military medics, but it varies from state to state, he said.Bill Seeks to Remove Barriers Keeping Military Medics from Getting Civilian Jobs
Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA), who chaired the subcommittee hearing, noted that many areas in the United States have a shortage of EMTs, and military medics could potentially fill those workforce gaps. He is among the supporters of a bill that would give states demonstration grants to study how to better integrate military medics into civilian EMT jobs.
“There are a number of issues keeping military medics from EMT employment,” Pitts said. “Most importantly are state licensing requirements, which can require duplicative training and education that is likely to be unnecessary for someone with significant experience. There is a need to better understand the differences in military medic training vs. traditional EMT training and bridge the gap between the two to make it easier for our returning soldiers to find jobs. It is our hope that this bill would allow states to study this and streamline their EMT requirements for those returning from the military who have the experience so desperately needed in many communities.”
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), said he supports the bill and pointed out that the country has an obligation to make sure that returning veterans “have the necessary tools to navigate this difficult market.”
Nichols, an advocate for the bill, told the subcommittee that he thought the “ultimate solution” would be to create a way in which training provided by DoD could be accredited by civilian standards and so “allow military training and skills to easily transition into existing safeguards and competency standards established by civilian and state institutions.” Legislation would be needed to do this, he added.
“If there is one area where there is a national ability to take action, that to me is the one area,” Nichols said.
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