WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a bill to require the Department of Defense (DoD) to partner with medical schools and healthcare systems in states with a Special Operations Command (SOCOM) presence such as Washington, Florida, California, and North Carolina, to allow military medics to transfer their experience into credit for a Master’s Degree to become Physician Assistants (PAs). The SOCOM Medic Pilot Program expands upon a successful public-private partnership between the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the Carolinas Healthcare System, and Wake Forest University, which effectively shortens the time of post-military Physician Assistants’ certification from 2 years to 5 months for military medics.
“Medics in the field have substantial experience in saving lives,” said Sen. Burr. “Of course, doctors and hospitals across the country would benefit from the skills medics already have from their service. With this bill, medics can get their certification to become a physician’ assistants in one quarter the time under current law. This pilot program is successful in my state, and the universities and medical professionals agree. Rolling this out nationwide is a great solution and I look forward to Senate passage of this bill.”
“One of the most important commitments we make to our servicemembers is to help them more easily transition back to civilian life, including finding a career when they return home,” said Sen. Murray. “In addition to increasing investments and improving access to additional training and education, we should absolutely recognize the invaluable skills and experience these men and women earned while serving, and count that experience toward a new career. I’m glad this program is working in Senator Burr’s home state, and I’m proud to introduce this legislation to expand this program to communities in Washington state and around the country.”
Currently, a public-private-partnership exists between U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the Carolinas Healthcare System, and Wake Forest University, which effectively shortens the time of post-military PA certification from 2 years to 5 months for military medics. The SOCOM Medic Pilot Program seeks to institute this model formally with special operations, requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) to partner with institutions of higher education and healthcare systems, as determined by the Secretary, to allow SOCOM medics to earn a year of academic credit and civilian-equivalent training towards a Master’s PA degree for military operational work.
The Secretary would be required to provide two reports to Congress, upon implementation and before completion of the program, respectively, outlining the feasibility and advisability of permanently extending DoD this authority under 10 U.S.C. Section 107. The Secretary has the ability to utilize the 1-3 service payback model outlined in DoD instruction 1322.10 (PME), minimizing or eliminating the cost of the program. The SOCOM Medic Pilot Program would enhance SOCOM medics’ technical and critical-thinking skills, strengthen recruiting, improve retention, and increase mission capabilities.