Bill Seeks to Remove Barriers Keeping Military Medics from Getting Civilian Jobs

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.

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  1. Dochaz says:

    As a retired IDC I agree with these people. For 26 years I treated and cared for thousands of patients. The day before I retired I was a clinic manager in charge of my own clinic. I was able to write prescriptions, consults and I saw patients independently of a physician. The next day I could not even work aaa a medical assistant. Why can’t we kill two birds with one stone. The biggest problem facing vets is availability of care. Why not hire ex-IDC’s to see patients at the VA. Let us take care of the same people we took care of on active duty. I currently work for MSC who does hire IDC’s for the same job I performed while in the Navy. I would see patients at the VA for half of what I make now.

  2. Bill Carter says:

    I echo the sentiments of the previous writer. Before I left active duty as a 91B I did everything delivering babies, IVs, suturing, ACLS, immunizations, and so on. In the civilian world they allowed me to drive an ambulance and do basic first aid as an EMT B. It seemed that without going back and taking courses on things I once taught to other Medics, I was back on the bottom. I went to LPN School and whizzed through it. Passed the NCLEX. Again a waste of time. I am now CLEPing my way to RN. Something really needs to be done to recognize what we done. I keep hearing about these grand strides that we are making but to be honest, I know more than some Nurse Practioners.

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