Capitol Hill Briefing on Value of the USPHS Commissioned Corps to American Health and Security

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The PHS Commissioned Officers Foundation for the Advancement of Public Health hosted Acting Surgeon General RADM Boris Lushniak, USPHS, and experts on November 21 for an educational briefing at the Capitol Visitor Center to discuss the value of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to American health and security.

When you want to find an expert in public health, you turn to the U.S. Public Health Service, said RADM Boris Lushniak, USPHS.

Hosted by Senator Kay Hagan (NC), experts discussed the work of Public Health Service officers, their impact on health and security, and the pay and benefits officers receive.

Speakers included Acting Surgeon General RADM Boris Lushniak, COL Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret.) of the Military Officers Association of America, Research Associate Professor Muhiuddin Haider of the University of Maryland, and freelance journalist David Tobenkin.

RADM Lushniak has led the PHS Commissioned Corps since July 2013. He said, “When you want to find an expert in public health, you turn to the U.S. Public Health Service. In the midst of two theaters of operations, issues of PTSD, suicide, and traumatic brain injury, the Department of Defense didn’t go anywhere else except to the Commissioned Corps. We are a service organization. Where there is a need, we go.”

As director of government relations for MOAA, COL Hayden has a unique position to compare all seven uniformed services. He said of PHS officers, “Their mission is achieved through rapid and effective response in hazardous and sometimes remote locations around the globe. Even though we see differences between the Public Health Service and armed forces counterparts, the conditions in which they work are extremely similar.”

Professor Haider shared recommendations from his report called, "The USPHS Commissioned Corps: A Study on Value and Contributions to the DHHS Mission and National and Global Health Priorities and Initiatives." He highlighted the high bar for entry into the Corps, the 24/7 nature of officers’ work, and their mobility for domestic and international deployments.

David Tobenkin, a reporter for NARFE Magazine, the membership magazine of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, discussed an article appearing in the October 2013 issue about the relative compensation and benefits received by Commissioned Corps officers and civilian federal employee counterparts.

"Several aspects of uniformed service compensation and benefits can be more generous, though they come with military-style expectations and obligations,” says Tobenkin. “The compensation and benefits differential between the two groups, however, is frequently far less than the gulf between these groups' compensation and the much greater compensation that equivalent private sector employees receive, given generally strong demand for health professionals. Reductions in compensation and benefits for these federal workers could deter qualified professionals from joining or staying in federal government service."

The PHS Commissioned Officers Foundation for the Advancement of Public Health is a 501(c)(3) organization which seeks to advance public health and public health leadership for a healthier nation. The Foundation provides education and training, research on the PHS Commissioned Corps, and preserves the legacy of the Commissioned Corps. It is an affiliate of the Commissioned Officers Association of the USPHS.

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