September 2021 Newsletter

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News from MHCE


Monthly Newsletter


Soldiers Have 3 Months

to Get COVID Vaccine

or Face Discharge, with

Few Waiver Options

Active-duty soldiers have three

months to be fully vaccinated

against COVID-19 or face a possible

discharge from the force, the Army

announced Tuesday.

The 485,900 soldiers on active duty

must be vaccinated by Dec. 15. But

the 336,500 National Guard and

189,800 Reserve troops have until

June 30, 2022, to be fully inoculated.

As of Tuesday, about 80% of activeduty

soldiers had received at least

one vaccine dose, according to an

Army spokesperson. However, the

National Guard and Reserve don’t

have accurate numbersfor how

much of their forces are vaccinated,

given many of those troops receive

vaccines outside of the military.

"This is quite literally a matter of

life and death for our Soldiers, their

families and the communities in

which we live," Lt. Gen. R. Scott

Dingle, the U.S. Army surgeon

general, said in a statement. "Case

counts and deaths continue to be

concerning as the Delta variant

spreads, which makes protecting the

force through mandatory vaccination

a health and readiness priority for the

total Army."

The military's largest branch issued

its mandate after the other services

announced similar timelines.

For now, only Pfizer-BioNTech's

coronavirus vaccine has received full

approval from the Food and Drug

Administration and, as such, is the

one officially mandated. But troops

are allowed to seek out the other

available vaccines if they prefer.

That means that if troops receive

one of the two-shot varieties of the

vaccine they will need to have had

their second shot and passed the two-

week post vaccine waiting period

before the December deadline.

Along with other vaccines, the

Defense Department has a long list of

health-related mandates for troops.

Service members being unvaccinated

can cause many complications for

commands, as they may become


Soldiers who refuse vaccinations

will be counseled by their chain of

command. Such counseling typically

involves starting a paper trail and

having a discussion with the service

member about the orders they are

violating; it isn't always followed by

a punishment.

But continued failure to comply

with the order "could result in

administrative or non-judicial

punishment -- to include relief of

duties or discharge," according to a

statement from the Army.

Commanders will request a General

Officer Memorandum of Reprimand,

which are largely seen as career

killers, to be initiated for any soldier

who refuses inoculation without an


A discharge can cost a soldier their

benefits, including the GI Bill.

Military.com recently reported on

a Marine corporal who refused to

comply with an order that mandated

unvaccinated troops wear a mask

indoors. She was kicked out of the

force within a week of violating the

order and given a general discharge

under honorable conditions.

Those seeking waivers to avoid

immunization essentially have

two options: medical or religious

exemptions, according to Sean

Timmons, an attorney with the

Houston-based law firm Tully


The military is a relatively young,

healthy community whose members

already have received numerous

vaccines, so most people are "not

going to have the ability to be granted

a medical waiver," Timmons said.

A religious exemption may be

more likely, he said, if the person

can demonstrate that their religious

practice compels them to be morally

opposed to vaccination. However, no

major religion has come out against

the COVID-19 vaccine or vaccines

in general.

Joe Seiner, a professor at the

University of South Carolina School

of Law, said soldiers will need to

demonstrate that the vaccine conflicts

with a sincere religious belief or have

received prior waivers.

"You'd probably want to show

them that you haven't gotten certain

vaccinations or, if you are new to the

service, that this would be consistent

with your prior history," Seiner said

during an interview.

Still, if a religious exemption request

is denied by the military, the rejection

may provide a basis for a lawsuit,

Timmons said.

"It's possible for attorneys to work

with an admission to say there's a

good faith objection," he explained.

Timmons said his firm has been

approached by service members

expressing interest in filing lawsuits

against the mandate.

Seiner said he expects lawsuits to

be filed but warned troops who are

hesitant about the vaccine not to

expect any immediate injunctions

or temporary rulings to halt the


"There's no guarantee a judge will

do that,” he said. “For a judge to

actually issue that order, it has to be

a lawsuit that is likely to succeed, at

least in the federal judge's mind."

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Focus on Oversight a Key for Success at


In the corrections industry, maintaining high standards of

operation is imperative to meeting the needs of the individuals

in our care. That's why CoreCivic adheres to a stringent set of

guidelines set forth by our own standards, as well as those of our

government partners and the American Correctional Association


Founded in 1870, the ACA is considered the national benchmark

for the effective operation of correctional systems throughout

the United States. To become accredited, a facility must achieve

compliance with ACA mandatory standards and a minimum of

90 percent non-mandatory standards. CoreCivic facilities adhere

to ACA standards, and in 2020, CoreCivic earned an average

ACA audit score of 99.6 percent across all facilities.

Key ACA audit areas include facility personnel, resident reentry

programs, resident safety, health care, and more.

holds our facilities and staff to a high standard. To be able to

represent our facility and receive reaccreditation in person is an


Adhering to ACA standards is only one part of CoreCivic's

commitment to robust oversight. When government partners

utilize CoreCivic's services, we are held not only to our own

high standards and those of the ACA, but we are often held to

the same or higher accountability of our public counterparts

through stringent government contracts, unfettered access to

our facilities for our partners, and hundreds of on-site quality

assurance monitors.

We provide access to our government partners, with most of

our facilities having government agency employees known as

contract monitors who are physically on-site to ensure we are

operating in line with partner guidelines.

Recently, the ACA held in Nashville, Tennessee, its 151st

Congress of Corrections, an annual convention that brings

together corrections professionals from across the country. In

addition to various workshops and events at the convention, the

ACA Commission on Accreditation also held panel hearings to

award accreditation to correctional facilities that meet the ACA's

rigorous requirements. Listed below are the seven CoreCivic

facilities that earned reaccreditation this year, with mandatory/

non-mandatory scores:

• Bent County Correctional Facility - 100/99.0

• Citrus County Detention Facility - 100/100

• Eloy Detention Center - 100/100

• Lake Erie Correctional Institution - 100/99.3

• Saguaro Correctional Center - 100/99.8

• Stewart Detention Center - 100/100

• Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility - 100/100

"The accreditation process is very important," said Warden

Fred Figueroa from Eloy Detention Center, one of the seven

CoreCivic facilities that was awarded reaccreditation. "ACA

To maintain our own high standards, annual on-site audits covering

all operational areas are administered to ensure compliance with

contractual and regulatory obligations and corporate-mandated

requirements. Each CoreCivic Safety facility is audited by our

internal quality assurance division, which is independent from

our operations division. Facilities are expected to be audit-ready

year-round, maintaining continuous compliance with numerous

applicable standards.

CoreCivic employs 75 staff members dedicated to quality

assurance, including several subject matter experts with extensive

experience from all major disciplines within our institutional


"A lot of hard work goes into preparing for these audits,"

Figueroa said. "Once they're complete, the staff can see their

accomplishments and feel proud."

Having multiple levels of oversight helps CoreCivic maintain

a safe environment for those in our care. By holding ourselves

accountable to our own high standards, along with our

government partners' and ACA's standards, CoreCivic continues

to be a trusted partner working to better the public good.

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contact Nathan.Stiles@mhce.us



10 | MHCE - News www.mhce.us SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION


contact Kyle.Stephens@mhce.us

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Mandatory COVID

Testing for

Unvaccinated DoD

Civilian Workers to

Start This Fall

The Pentagon will begin regular mandatory COVID-19 testing

of unvaccinated civilian workers this fall, its next step in fighting

the disease after requiring troops to get the shots, Deputy Defense

Secretary Kathleen Hicks said Wednesday.

Hicks said the department is adding stricter monitoring of

its massive workforce of about 700,000 civilians, and also

is considering how to deal with contractors, after President

Joe Biden announced in July his intention to test all federal


"We're working closely across the department and with

interagency colleagues on the right approach for our contractors

who are present on a routine basis on defense installations to

make sure we have the right strategy for them," Hicks said

during a virtual defense conference.

Civilian employees will be required to provide an "attestation

of testing," meaning they must supply proof of vaccination, or

undergo testing to monitor for the disease, which has killed 436

people in the Defense Department.

More than half of the reported deaths -- 282 -- were civilians.

COVID-19 has killed 96 contractors and 40 service members,

according to the department.

But only about half of the civilian workforce, or 310,669

employees, has been fully vaccinated, the department's data


The Pentagon is the largest federal agency and one of the largest

civilian employers in the U.S., making its switch to mandatory

testing significant. Businesses, states and health care facilities

across the country also have mandated regular testing.

Last month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered all activeduty

troops to be vaccinated, and the military services are in

the process of rolling out rules and timelines. The Pentagon

has said the vaccine mandate is a lawful order and troops face

repercussions for refusing, though it remains unclear whether

it would result in judicial punishment or separation from the


Biden announced the federal employee testing requirement July

29 in an effort to ramp up lagging national vaccination rates as

the Delta variant of the coronavirus first took hold.

"Anyone who does not attest to being fully vaccinated will be

required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic

location, physically distance from all other employees and

visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing

requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel," the

White House announcement said.

12 | MHCE - News www.mhce.us SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION

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College-age dependents enrolled in the Tricare Young Adult program will

see an increase in their monthly premiums; however, the amounts vary,

depending on which option they are covered under. For those using Tricare

Young Adult Select, the monthly payment will go from $257 to $265, and

those using Tricare Young Adult Prime will see the monthly payment increase

from $459 to $512.

Tricare Rates Increasing in

2022 for Reservists, Young

Adults, Others

If you are a reservist, young adult or transitioning service member enrolled

in Tricare or a transition health insurance plan, you will probably soon be

paying more for your health insurance.

Recently discharged members with temporary health insurance under the

Continued Health Care Benefit Program (CHCBP) will see their premiums

increase by the largest amount. Enrollees in that program pay premiums every

three months, or quarterly, instead of monthly. That means their premiums

will go from $1,599 to $1,654 for a single person and from $3,605 to $4,079

for a family.

While these rates may seem high, they pale in comparison to what civilians

pay for health insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the

average monthly health insurance premium for single coverage in 2020 was

$622; for family coverage, it was $1,778.

Tricare just released the 2022 rates for the Tricare Reserve Select (TRS) and

Tricare Retired Reserve (TRR) programs, as well as for the Tricare Young

Adult and Continued Health Care Benefit programs. Like almost everything

else, the prices will mainly be increasing.

Reservists enrolled in the Tricare Reserve Selectprogram are the lucky ones

in the group and will see their premiums actually go down next year. The

monthly premiums will decrease from $47.20 to $46.70 for single coverage

and from $238.99 to $229.99 for family coverage.

Retired reservists who haven't turned 60 and are covered under the Tricare

Retired Reserveprogram will see the monthly premiums for a single member

increase from $484.83 to $502.32 each month, and those with family coverage

will see an increase from $1,165.01 to $1,206.59.

14 | MHCE - News www.mhce.us SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION

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16 | MHCE - News www.mhce.us SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION

Pentagon 9/11

Attack Survivors

Grappled With

Wounds that

Defined an Era of


Army Lt. Col. Marilyn Wills was in a second floor conference

room at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, unaware of the

tragedy unfolding 205 miles to the north in New York City.

At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into

the Pentagon's west side, driving deep into the outer row of

offices known as the "E-Ring" and exploding in a fireball that

killed 184 nearly instantaneously and wounded 160 more,

including Wills, who was knocked across the room, hair

ablaze, ears ringing and brain rattled from the blast wave.

"I don't remember any of it," Wills said in an interview. "I

know I was constantly talking, trying to assure us that we

would get out of there. Over the years, you talk to people who

were there, the nurse who attended me, and learn, but I just

don't remember."

Wills earned the Soldier's Medal for her heroism that day,

crawling through inky toxic smoke, using her sweater to

shield her face, sharing it with others to protect their lungs

from the scalding air and, at one point, carrying a person on

her back to reach a window on the building's courtyard.

Then, she helped lower people safely to the ground.

Thirteen days later, after spending time at hospitals for smoke

inhalation and burns, Wills returned to the building. She

didn't realize it then, but she also had suffered at least a mild

traumatic brain injury from the shock wave and later would

develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Looking back, I was not ready physically, I wasn't ready

psychologically," Wills said. "The place was still crackling.

The worst part was the smell -- stinky, smelly. It was the

smell of death, of dead bodies, of fuel."

Twenty years after 9/11, Wills and 105 others injured at the

Pentagon still bear the effects of TBIs, lung damage, burns,

musculoskeletal injuries and missing limbs. At least several

have been diagnosed with PTSD or depression.

They were the first of the 9/11 generation to experience what

later were identified as the signature wounds of Iraq and

Afghanistan, mainly brain injuries and post-traumatic stress

disorder caused by roadside bombs -- often the enemy's

weapon of choice in those insurgency wars.

By 2020 -- 19 years after 9/11 -- more than 408,000 service

members had suffered traumatic brain injuries, according to

Reuters, including roughly 8,200 with severe or penetrating

wounds, at least a quarter of whom also reported symptoms

of PTSD.

The injuries existed before the last two decades of conflict,

but those long-running wars meant wide exposure to bomb

blasts and burn pits that have left an indelible mark on the


TBIs can cause memory loss, depression, and changes in

personality and focus. PTSD leaves sufferers fighting similar

symptoms, part of what has made diagnosis challenging

and contributing to the difficulty many veterans face when

coming home to lives put on hold during deployments.

Deeply intertwined with those conditions has been the plague

of suicide that has struck the military community since the

wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

But improvements in medical care in the years after 9/11

allowed more wounded service members to survive and

make it home, part of what medical experts such as Dr. Art

Kellermann, former dean of medicine at the Uniformed

Services University of the Health Sciences, call the "greatest

developments in combat casualty care the world has ever


"The conflict started on Sept. 11, and the reality is the first few

years, the outcomes weren't nearly what was achieved later

in the conflict," said Kellermann, who now works as CEO

at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in

Richmond, Virginia. "Those first few years, military medicine

was reinvented."

Since 9/11, 6,710 U.S. service members have died and 52,441

have been wounded in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as part

of the Global War on Terrorism, not including the injuries and

deaths at the Pentagon.

While each combat death is tragic, the numbers would have

been significantly higher if not for medical innovations and

lessons learned that started at the Pentagon on Sept. 11,

medical experts say.

"It's actually one of the brightest stories of these long-running

conflicts that haven't ended nearly the way our country would

have hoped they would, but the advances that were made, and

how they were made, are as profound as anything American

medicine ever achieved," Kellermann said.


Traumatic brain injury and PTSD would become incredibly

common but were still little understood at the outset of the

9/11 wars.

The first is physical, the result of blows to the head or pressure

waves sweeping across the brain. The second is categorized

as a mental health condition. Years of research have led

experts to conclude they are connected, but no causal link

has been proven.

Wills and retired Army Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell, the only

survivor from the portion of the Pentagon's E-Ring where the

plane hit, both suffered concussive blasts.

Wills recovered and so did Birdwell, who is now a Texas state


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"I was injured on the first day of the war," Birdwell told

Military.com. "In the military, we do chaos well. This is what

we have been doing -- adapt, improvise and overcome."

In the oily thick blackness, Birdwell said he came to the

"reconciliation that he was dying," thought of his wife and

12-year-old son, and told God he was ready.

"The battlefield is an inherently toxic, dirty atmosphere,"

Szema said. "There's definitely an opportunity to improve

how we treat those who live and work in these environments."

Both say the road has not been easy. Birdwell has treatable

short-term memory loss, and both admire how far American

medicine has come in recognizing the impact of concussion

on brains and the approach now taken to ensure that those

affected recover.

"I had a huge contusion on the back of my head, and because

I had suffered oxygen deprivation, I had mild cognitive

impairment, but long term, I'm quite healthy," said the

59-year-old Birdwell, who despite his injury could name

every single person who treated and helped him from his

evacuation from the Pentagon to his release from the hospital

at Christmas, more than three months later.

It took several years, but in 2006 the Military Acute

Concussion Evaluation was added to the list of tools to screen

casualties. And while that assessment is based on subjective

questioning, the Defense Department continues to invest in

sensors and medical devices to detect mild brain injuries.

"Fortunately, our capacity to help wounded warriors recover

is substantially better than when the U.S. entered Iraq and

Afghanistan ... those of us who are privileged to work with

these patients and their families remain determined to help

them advance in their recovery," wrote Dr. Paul Pasquina

and others in the book, "Out of the Crucible: How the U.S.

Military Transformed Combat Casualty Care in Iraq and

Afghanistan,” co-edited by Kellermann and published by the

Department of Defense.


An estimated 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have

symptoms of PTSD, according to Rand Corp. Two years after

9/11, Wills found herself short-tempered with her children,

irritable and angry.

Likewise, Birdwell dealt with flashbacks to the blast, the

memories of those in his office who perished, and the pain

and trauma of suffering third-degree burns.

Wills, who has a masters degree in counseling, relied on her

own training at first but later saw a professional, which she

said helped. Birdwell turned to religious counseling and his

own deep faith to get him through the surgeries, the recovery

and the agony of his extensive injuries.

In the early 2000s, Wills said, she feared the loss of her

security clearance and her job if she admitted that she was

struggling mentally. She said that fear continues to exist

today even as Army leaders promote mental health treatment.

"I had to reach back into my box of tools," Wills said. "If I

didn't, I knew I couldn't move forward. I will always share

with young service members ... and senior ranking officers,

my experience and how I was able to deal with it. For leaders

to say 'I understand what you are going through ... you need

to get help.' It helps a lot."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, 5,116 active-duty service members

have died from suicide -- a reflection of the stress of combat,

with roughly 50% of those having deployed to war. But it

also reflects the increase in suicides among young people in

the United States.

And more than 114,000 U.S. veterans have died by suicide in

the past 20 years. The Pentagon and Department of Veterans

Affairs both have struggled to reverse the upward trend,

emphasizing the importance of mental health treatment for

those who need it, offering therapies and alternative care for

struggling personnel, and attempting to destimagize the need

for care.

Birdwell leaned on his faith, religious leaders and spiritual

counseling for the help he needed. He seeks to reassure

veterans dealing with PTSD or injuries that leave them in

constant pain.

"There's a lot of life to be lived," Birdwell said. "Even with my

scars, the things Mel [my wife] and I have seen together, that

laying in that burn center and laying in that ICU wondering if

she would see them as a widow ... we have seen as husband

and wife. There's just a lot of life left."


Birdwell was six steps from the men's restroom at the

intersection of the E-Ring and the 4th corridor when the

Boeing 757 struck the Pentagon.

He was knocked to the ground, his clothing, hair and skin

on fire, his lungs filled with jet fuel. One of his eardrums

ruptured, and his brain was rattled by the blast wave.

"In my sinful, impatient human nature, I was like, 'OK, Lord,

I'm ready, let's get on with this thing,'" Birdwell said during

an interview Wednesday. "But that feeling of the soul leaving

the body didn't come."

So, Birdwell, with burns across 60% of his body, got up and

walked while feeling for the wall and following the only

visible light, which was a reflection of ceiling lights on the

corridor's terrazzo flooring.

Fifty-one surgeries later, Birdwell is a skin graft recipient

who has "more pig skin than a football, has coached burned

post-9/11 veterans, and reflects on the miracle that his lungs

somehow function, despite having been drained of jet fuel on

arrival at Georgetown.

"I couldn't smell anything in the ER room, but apparently, it

was like a gas station,' Birdwell said.

The lung damage of both Birdwell and Wills, which now

manifests itself in shortness of breath and a susceptibility

to lung infections, compares with the veterans of Iraq and

Afghanistan who were exposed to burn pits and dust and also

suffer from pulmonary dysfunction.

"I just have a cold all the time. I may be at, what, 80% lung

capacity?" Wills said.

"I try to take the stairs in the Texas State House. But more

than often, I take the elevator. I get really winded," Birdwell


Anthony Szema, a researcher and professor at the Donald and

Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in

Hempstead, New York, studies the lung effects of battlefield

pollution such as burn pits, jet fuel, and dust contaminated

with heavy metals and chemicals.

The lung damage among Pentagon victims and first

responders, as well as those close to the collapse of the World

Trade Center towers, is similar to veterans exposed to burn

pits and other contaminants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The U.S. military has needed more capacity to treat severe

burns during the 9/11 era. The Defense Department in 2012

established a premier burn center at Joint Base San Antonio-

Fort Sam Houston, one that treats service members who

suffer burns and inhalation injuries.

The purpose, said then-Army Lt. Col. Louis Stout, an Army

nurse who worked in San Antonio at the time,, was to ensure

that medical expertise, like treating severe wounds, were not

lost during peacetime.

"These are perishable skills that are not easily, or quickly,

mastered and must be maintained," Stout said at the center's


Birdwell and others who have been severely injured would

have died or had lower quality of life without treatment from

top burn specialists and skills being taught at San Antonio,

such as using maggots to clean burns.

"The Lord's nastiest, if not His least creation, knows only to

eat the dead cells, not the living cells," Birdwell said. "If not

for them, my liver might have shut down. The next step would

have been to amputate my arms to protect from infection. I

still have my arms."

Kellermann, the former dean of medicine, worries about the

future of military medicine after the U.S. military withdrew

from Afghanistan and fewer troops are deployed in combat,

and whether it will be ready if someday another war comes.

"I'm really worried that we will have another one of these

learning curves and we'll pay for it in lives," Kellermann said.

The system and the advancements of the past 20 years must

be preserved, he said.

"They cut the battlefield death rate in half to the lowest

level of world history, while they took care of millions of

beneficiaries at home," Kellermann said of the military's

post-9/11 doctors and nurses. "And that is one of the most

astonishing achievements in the history of American


18 | MHCE - News www.mhce.us SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION

VA Implements


Vaccine Mandate

for Medical Staff

When it comes to treating patients and

using technology, military healthcare

workers have been there and done

that -- sometimes with missiles flying

overhead and supply lines under threat.

No wonder medical service personnel

have such bright and varied career

prospects once they leave the military.

Valued Backgrounds

In the healthcare job market, where

demand continues to outpace supply,

the armed forces are viewed as a

font of high-quality talent. Military

healthcare providers are in demand,

says Ted Daywalt, president of VetJobs

in Marietta, Georgia. "Their work

environment is much more hostile

and demanding than at a US civilian

hospital," he says, so they're able to

hit the ground running after military


Healthcare organizations readily

recognize the value of candidates'

military backgrounds. "Employers

don't question the ability of military

people to deal with high-stress

environments," says John Harol, a

partner at Lighthouse Recruiting in

Avon, Connecticut. Harol, a staff

sergeant in the Massachusetts Air

National Guard, was on active duty

for eight months in Iraq, where he

set up satellite communications for a


Military medical personnel have also

seen it all when it comes to patient

care. "In the Navy, I saw thousands

of patients," says Michael Wood, a

military optometrist who retired in

1992 after 20 years to open a private

WWW.MHCE.US Monthly Newsletter | 19

optometry practice in Greenville, South Carolina.

"You actually get stranger eye diseases in the

Navy -- more difficult than anything you would

encounter in a civilian practice."

Translating Healthcare Skills

When making the transition to the civilian

workforce, military medical workers face many

of the same challenges other armed services

professionals do. However, "military healthcare

workers have an easier transition into civilian

lifethan do other servicemen and women," Harol


Why is that? "Federal standards and patient load

are the same in the military as in civilian life,"

Daywalt explains.

Also, medical jargon stays the same, as do most

of the procedures and protocols defining the

healthcare professions. "Only job titles and the

names for policies and procedures are different,"

Harol notes.

As all retiring service members must do,

healthcare workers need to mind their language

in resumes and cover letters, as well as in face-toface

interviews, which they should drill for. For

example, a serviceman retiring as a Laboratory

NCOIC (Noncommissioned Officer in Charge)

would be known as a blood-bank supervisor in

civilian healthcare. The Transition Assistance

Program, available to all armed forces members,

can help soldiers, sailors and Marines overcome

this language barrier.

Wide Range of Opportunities

Although many former military healthcare

workers make the transition to civilian hospitals,

there are other choices. "In optometry, you can go

into commercial, private or institutional practice

or research," Wood says. "Retiring from the

military, you're prepared for any of those areas."

Veterans who are medical professionals find

employment in settings ranging from stand-alone

clinics to doctors' offices, rehabilitation centers,

nursing homes, and private or public research


There are also varied healthcare career

opportunities at the Veterans Health

Administration. Jobs are available at VA hospitals

and other veterans healthcare facilities across

the country. Current openings include those

for physical therapists, pharmacists, radiologic

technologists, social workers, registered nurses,

licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists

and medical technologists.

20 | MHCE - News www.mhce.us SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION


WWW.MHCE.US Monthly Newsletter | 21

Lawmakers Try to Ban

Dishonorable Discharges

for Troops Who Refuse

Mandatory COVID-19


House lawmakers have

backed legislation prohibiting

dishonorable discharges for

troops who refuse the COVID-19

vaccine, as the Navy gave its

sailors 90 days to get the shot

this week and the Army and Air

Force were poised Thursday to

enforce their own timetables.

Legislation sponsored by Rep.

Mark Green, R-Tenn., an Army

veteran, requires only honorable

discharges for anyone who is

separated from the military over

refusing to be vaccinated. It was

added to the fiscal 2022 defense

authorization bill, passed by

the House Armed Services

Committee on Thursday.

"No American who raises their

hand to serve our Nation should

be punished for making a highly

personal medical decision,"

Green said in a statement after the

committee vote. The U.S. Food

and Drug Administration fully

approved the Pfizer-BioNTech

vaccine in August after allowing

emergency use beginning in

December 2020, saying it is safe

and effective for those 16 years

old and over.

spokesman John Kirby said

during a briefing with reporters


But troops who refuse to be

inoculated may not necessarily

face dishonorable discharge, or

even separation, according to


The Pentagon has repeatedly

stopped short of saying it will

boot troops for refusing the shot.

Commanders will have a range

of options that stop short of

punishment under the Uniform

Code of Military Justice, Kirby

said. The services also will allow

religious exemptions to the


"The secretary expects that

the department leadership will

implement these mandatory

vaccines with skill but also

... professionalism and

compassion," Kirby said. "When

an individual declines to take a

mandatory vaccine, they will be

given an opportunity to talk to

both medical providers as well

as their own chain of command

so that they can fully understand

the decision they are making."

The House legislation barring

dishonorable discharges now

must go to a vote in the full

chamber. The House version of

the massive, must-pass defense

authorization bill also must

be reconciled with the Senate

version in conference, where

controversial measures often are


In any case, the bill is unlikely to

be signed into law until months

after all the military services

are enforcing COVID-19


Military.com reported on a

Marine corporal who said she

was discharged for refusing to

wear a mask, possibly the first

service member to be pushed

out of the military in connection

with COVID-19 rules.

According to the Pentagon,

roughly 63% of all U.S. forces

had received at least one dose

or were fully vaccinated against

COVID-19 as of Aug. 18.

Creating a Culture

of Caring

Offering master’s

and doctoral

degrees for

Registered Nurses

Specialties Offered:


Family Nurse Practitioner

Women’s Health Care NP

Psychiatric-Mental Health NP

The Navy became the first

service to enforce a timeframe for

vaccinations in a series of memos

on Tuesday and Wednesday

following the FDA approval and

an order by Defense Secretary

Lloyd Austin for all troops to

be vaccinated. The Army and

Air Force are expected to give

soldiers and airmen a deadline

"very, very soon," Pentagon

Learn more at frontier.edu/military

22 | MHCE - News www.mhce.us SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION

WWW.MHCE.US Monthly Newsletter | 23


contact Kyle.Stephens@mhce.us

24 | MHCE - News www.mhce.us SEPTEMBER 2021 EDITION

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