Call of Duty Endowment's Call to Action to Recognize Medics and Corpsmen in Civilian Health Care

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A Navy hospital corpsman treats a wounded Afghan in a Helmand province village. (NATO Training Mission Afghanistan)

"Veterans Stand Ready to Fill Critical Healthcare Vacancies" is not just the title of a new report from the Call of Duty Endowment; the nonprofit's research says it's a fact. At the outset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, civil and medical leaders called for an "army of healthcare workers" to help address shortfalls, but there was one group of medical professionals they wouldn't accept: veterans.

In the new paper, the Call of Duty Endowment shows that an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 former medics and corpsmen are not just trained to help fill an estimated gap of 1.2 million health-care workers by 2030; they want to be working in health care. Despite the massive understaffing in U.S. hospitals and clinics across the country, these military-trained medical professionals could not join the fight against the pandemic.

The Call of Duty Endowment says the reason behind the exclusion is bureaucratic red tape that varies from state to state and sometimes county to county -- and many government officials don't even know it's happening where they work.

The nonprofit compiled extensive data from 56 states and U.S. territories, focusing on how medics and EMTs in each area received certifications and qualifications to work in civilian health-care systems there. They also review how those requirements are communicated to the public.

What it found was a handful of states that are "exemplary" in helping get military-trained medical personnel into civilian certifications after separation from military service. Most, however, do not provide straightforward means and clearly communicated pathways for getting those medical veterans into health-care qualifications.

The gap between military training and civilian qualifications doesn't just affect the American public's access to emergency health care. It affects veterans who leave the military, hoping to continue a career of medical service.

Half of those medics and corpsmen cannot get civilian medical work when leaving the military, and 60% of them describe their situations as "underemployed," which means their skills are being underutilized and many are forced to take low-paying or low-skill jobs to make ends meet.

The Call of Duty Endowment has been working on the issue of veteran underemployment since 2009, when it first began placing veterans in jobs. To date, the nonprofit has placed more than 90,000 vets in post-military careers. The urgency of the pandemic, the need for health-care workers and the lack of access to civilian health-care jobs for military-trained medical personnel led them to look deeper at this issue.

Petty Officer 1st Class Stephanie L. Minix, an independent duty corpsman, measures a patient's height during a cooperative medical engagement. (U.S. Marine Corps/ Lance Cpl. Cindy Alejandrez)

The solution, it says, is to improve licensure communications while simplifying or eliminating barriers to entry. Once the path to civilian qualification is clear, veterans will be able to begin filling the gaps.

The new report breaks down the best and worst states and territories in a color-coded map. The green states have clear pathways for licensure that list straightforward requirements. Yellow areas have clear paths but poorly communicate those paths. Orange states and territories on the map have both unclear requirements and poor communications while red states force former military medical personnel to start over as if they had no training at all.

There is also a spreadsheet linked in the map that outlines where to find the licensure requirements online for each state and territory, as well as a point of contact veterans can reach out to for questions about licensure.

The best states for medics and corpsmen to begin working in health care are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina. The Call of Duty Endowment lists their requirements and communications as examples that can be followed by every other state and territory as an easy solution to an overwhelming issue.

On the national level, the Call of Duty Endowment recommends streamlining the requirements to transition military medical personnel into civilian licenses while increasing the clarity in communicating what those requirements are.

On the state level, those in states which are not in the green category should advocate for the recommended changes, contact state representatives to push for those changes, demand increased clarity in communications and contact local news outlets to inform journalists so they can get the message to the public and also advocate for the changes.

Making these fixes will not only provide jobs for tens of thousands of veterans who want to work in health care, but also will provide a much-needed boost to America's health-care system and help rural populations' access to emergency medical services.

Those interested in getting civilian health-care jobs or helping open the road to veterans seeking civilian licenses can read the full Call of Duty Endowment Research here.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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