Letters and News Media

Bureau of Prisons

Commissioned Corps officers in BOP facilities are struggling to retain their rights as service members and their safety as health providers within the prisons. 

COA member CDR Jayne Vander Hey-Wright is a Senior Health Services Officer at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York. Despite her long years at the prison, she was denied access to higher priority shifts and discriminated against in favor of civilian prison workers who had less seniority than she. CDR Vander Hey-Wright filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). She argued the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) protects her and other members of the USPHS Commissioned Corps against such discriminatory treatment. It does. USERRA is a federal law which establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed service members and their civilian employers. Retired Captain Samuel Wright of the ROA Service Members Law Center, wrote Law Review 15041 (May 2015) regarding the case. On 10 July 2015 the DOL Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS) ruled in CDR Vander Hey-Wright’s favor. Click here to see the letter. 

CDR Lisa Patterson, Senior Nurse Officer at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Butner, NC, won a appeal similar. Here is the letter from the DOL VETS with a decision to uphold USERRA for CDR Patterson. COA Executive Director Jim Currie wrote this letter urging the Department of Labor to ensure USERRA employment rights are applied throughout the BOP system. 

The wins in Butner and Otisville did not apply to all BOP facilities. PHS officers at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, are battling the same issues. Here are decisions by the Federal Labor Relations Authority and its arbitrator regarding shift selection between PHS nurses and union nurses represented by the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Local #33. Captain Samuel Wright wrote Law Review 16033 (April 2016) in response to the PHS-AFGE arbitration case involving USERRA. 

Jim Currie was quoted in a USA Today article regarding staffing struggles between Corps officers and civilian unions within the Bureau of Prisons, (Article, 14 April 2016). Journalist Kevin Johnson followed up with a second USA Today story about USPHS Commissioned Corps officers who continue to be, "assigned guard duties and other security-related shifts to fill chronic personnel gaps, despite critical health care shortages throughout the vast prison system." (Article, 26 April 2016) 

COA sent this letter to members at BOP facilities to request their help in recruiting new members. More COA members at BOP facilities will support our efforts to fight inequities for USPHS officers. 

COA sent this letter to BOP, Director Kane commending the BOP for understanding that officers in the Commissioned Corps should be not used as correctional officers.

Memo, BOP Director Kane to Prison Wardens, 1 June 2016

Arbitrator’s decision in the case of the Master Agreement between the AFGE and the BOP, 3 Oct 16

COA News Update on Arbitration Decision, 7 Oct 16

COA Executive Director’s email to BOP Director 7 Oct 16

Message to COA members re. arbitrator’s decision of 3 Oct 16

The Military Coalition’s letter to U.S. Attorney General Lynch, 17 Nov 2016

Letter to Sen. Jeff Sessions, December 2016

Letter to U.S. Attorney General Sessions, 20 March 2017

Form letter from Commissioned Corps officers assigned to BOP facilities, March 2017

Law Review Article, April 2016

Letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions from COA and ROA, March 2017

Letter, Former Surgeon General Carmona to Attorney General Sessions, April 2017

Letter from COA to Asst. Attorney General Loftus, 3 May 2017

Letter from Asst. Attorney General Loftus to COA and ROA, 27 Apr 2017

Letter to Asst. Attorney General Loftus, May 31, 2017

Amicus Brief filed by COA in the Arbitration Appeal of AFGE v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, January 2018

Federal Labor Relations Authority decision 22 Feb 2018 

Commissioned Corps

Memorandum from OMB and OPM exempting the Commissioned Corps from the civilian hiring freeze, 31 Jan 17

Letter to the Marine Corps Commandant re. Military Courtesies to PHS and NOAA Officers, May 2017

Letter to the Air Force Chief of Staff re. Military Courtesies to PHS and NOAA Officers, May 2017

Letter to Air Force Chief of Staff re. Military Courtesy, Sep 2017

Letter to the Editor, Scientific American magazine, Jun 2017

Letter to Director, White House Medical Unit, June 2017

Letter to Census Bureau re. Veteran Status for USPHS officers, Sep 2017 

Letter to Census Bureau re. definition of "veteran" December 2017

Letter to Census Bureau about "veteran" definition Feb 2018

Letter to The Washington Post about death and memoriam notices Dec 2017

COA Birthday Message to the Commissioned Corps, 4 January 2018


Letter to USAA CEO asking for loans for PHS officers Feb 2018

Letter to PenFed Credit Union July 2018

Letter to PenFed President and CEO asking for loans for PHS officers Feb 2018

Letter to PenFed Credit Union July 2018

Letter to Lender re. Suspension of Special Pay Feb 2018

Letter to The Washington Post about death notice emblems, Feb 2018

HHS Commissioned Corps Directive on "Protected Communications" (Whistleblowing) 11 Jan 2017

Washington Post Story about Proposed Commissioned Corps Cuts 27 Jun 18

Article in McKnight's Long Term Care News about CC cuts June 2018

MOAA article about proposed Commissioned Corps cuts, July 2018 

OMB Proposal to cut the Commissioned Corps, June 2018 

Atlanta Business Journal on proposed cut in the Commissioned Corps, June 2018

Fact Sheet on OMB proposals affecting the Commissioned Corps, July 2018

Letter to National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, July 2018

220th Birthday Message for the US Public Health Service

Benefits for USPHS Officers 

Disney Company 

Letter thanking the Disney Company for honoring service members of the USPHS Commissioned Corps and NOAA Corps by allowing them to purchase discounted tickets offered to members of the armed services (Letter, dated January 2016) 

Letter reminding Disney of the USPHS Commissioned Corps's outstanding achievements recognized with a Presidential Unit Cititation (Letter, dated October 2015) 

Third letter to Disney seeking parity for the USPHS of discounts enjoyed by members of the armed services (Letter, dated April 2015) 

Second letter to Disney, which sought to clarify the origins of the Disney policy to exclude USPHS and NOAA members from discounted tickets (Letter, dated January 2015) 

First letter to the Disney Company introducing them to the USPHS Commissioned Corps and seeking to right a wrong policy of excluding members of the USPHS Commissioned Corps and NOAA Corps from Disney's "Salute" to the uniformed services with access to discounted tickets (Letter, dated December 2014) 

Email to Disney Cruise Line re. Military Discount Sep 2017


Letter to USAA requesting full membership for USPHS officers, December 2016

Letter to USAA about payroll loans during a government shutdown, January 2018

Letter to USAA July 2018

MWR Facilities 

Military bases have Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs for service members and their families. Public Health Service officers, per DoD Instruction 1015.10, are authorized access to all MWR programs. Occasionally, some military bases reject PHS officers when they should not or they fail to recognize the Public Health Service as one of the uniformed services provided access to MWR programs. 

COA wrote a letter to the Army’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation at Fort Belvoir. We received this positive response. 

National Park Service 

The National Park Service offers a very generous pass to members of the military services and their dependents. Using the pass, they can access any national park for free. The same benefit is limited, however, to members of the armed services and not to NOAA and the PHS. 

COA wrote this letter to the Director of the National Park Service in June of 2014. Here is a second letter when we received no response. The National Park Service sent this response indicates the Military Pass was an effort to thank members of the military during a time of war. Here is a third letter COA sent because no change had been made. 

Letter to the National Park Service, June 2018

USO Facilities at Airports 

Many of the United Service Organizations (USO) facilities at airports deny access to Public Health Service officers on travel. Each USO facility is locally run and funded through local donations. It is an amazing opportunity for service members to rest during travel. We applaud the USO volunteers for their support of service members. While a few USO facilities may permit PHS officers entry, most do not. 

COA Executive Director Jim Currie wrote this letter to the USO President on 17 June 2014. We received this response which mentions the USO congressional charter limits access to "the men and women of the Armed Forces." The response also mentioned how the USO may consider updating its admission policy. A year passed without action. Jim Currie wrote a second letter, this one to the new USO President. We received a response on 24 November 2015 saying the USO chose to stick with its existing admission policy. Here is COA's response to the USO decision. We will keep at it. 

Letter to USO, March 2017.

Letter from the USO denying Commissioned Corps admission to facilities, May 2017

Airline Baggage Fees/Automobile Discounts/Home Improvement Stores 

We routinely convey to companies that Public Health Service officers are veterans. Although PHS officers are not members of the military, we kindly request the companies switch their policies from being limited to either the four military or five armed services (includes Coast Guard) and open the discounts to all seven uniformed services (includes PHS and NOAA). 

We wrote this letter to American Airlines in January 2016. 

COA wrote this letter to the Subaru Corporation of America in May 2016. We wrote this letter to the Honda Corporation in February 2016. 

Until COA acted, Lowe's excluded PHS officers from its military discounts. We sent our first letter to Lowe's in June 2015 and a second letter in October 2015. Lowe's agreed to extend the 10% discount and shared the information with us via email. COA is still working on Home Depot. We sent Home Depot this letter in March 2016. 

Letter to Lowe's May 2017

Letter to Lowe's, June 2017

Letter to Lowe's, July 2017

Letter to Lowe's CEO Sept 2017

Letter to Lowe's CEO, December 2017

Letter to Lowe's COO re. the discount to military officers Feb 2018

Letter to Lowe's, 21 February 2018

Letter to Lowe's April 2018

Letter to SheerID re. its support of Lowe's website, January 2018

Letter to Home Depot (second letter), August 2016

Letter to United Airlines, January 2016

Letter to Nissan Corporation about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to Kia Corporation about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to Toyota Corporation about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to Harley-Davidson Corporation about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to Ford Corporation about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to Ford re. military appreciation cash offer program, Jan 2018

Letter to GM Company about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to GM re. military discount program Jan 2018

Letter to Honda about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to Subaru about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to Hyundai about military discounts, February 2017

Letter to United Airlines, February 2017

Letter to Delta Airlines, February 2017

Letter to American Airlines, February 2017

Letter to American Airlines, July 2017

Letter to American Airlines, Sep 2017

Letter to Southwest Airlines about military discount fares for USPHS officers, 28 February 2017

Tuition Rates 

Many state offer in-state tuition rates to members of the military and their dependents, regardless of their permanent home of record. Such discounts often do not extend to Public Health Service officers.

COA sent a letter to the University of Maryland seeking to extend the in-state tuition rate to PHS officers working in Maryland. We sent this letter to Liberty University in March 2016. 

Recognition of USPHS Ebola Deployment to Liberia

Letter to the Editor of Army Times highlighting how the publication mentioned involvement of the armed forces in West Africa but failed to recognize teams from the USPHS Commissioned Corps which staffed the Monrovia Medical Unit and treated Ebola patients (Letter, dated September 2014) 

Letter published in Army Times requesting "a shout-out to members of a sister service who are deploying to Liberia to treat Ebola patients" (Letter, dated November 2014) 

Letter shown on CBS show "60 Minutes" reminding the public of the contributions USPHS teams made in Liberia (Letter, aired November 9, 2014) 

Former Ebola Czar’s call for a Public Health Emergency Management Agency (PHEMA),” Democracy Journal (Letter, March 2016) 

COA Director’s response to former Ebola Czar’s call for a PHEMA,” Democracy Journal, (Letter, April 2016) 

OpEd by the former Ebola Czar, Washington Post, May 2016

Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, re. former Ebola Czar and PHEMA May 2016

U.S. Senate Resolution 540, Sens. Coons and Isakson, commending the officers of the U.S. Public Health Service

Appropriations for the Commissioned Corps 

The USPHS Commissioned Corps does not have a line item in the federal budget. It is a uniformed service with no funding for training its men and women. COA sent a letter to Rep. Rob Wittman requesting a small appropriation for the Corps. We sent a similar letter to Rep. Gene Green. 

Defense Department and Tobacco Policy

Memorandum, Defense Department Tobacco Policy, 8 April 2016

Army Times story: “Tobacco Prices Rise in DoD Stores,” 16-23 May 2016, p. 25

Letter in Army Times re. DoD tobacco policy, June 2016

Letter from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness, to COA Exec. Dir. Jim Currie, Jul 2016

Veterans Affairs Department

COA writes a letter urging the Commission on VA Care to develop a formal agreement with VA and DHHS so the USPHS can fill some of the VHA staffing shortage and fulfill their roles as USPHS Officer. 

Letter from COA and other organizations to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers about legislation on VA facilities, June 2016”

Letter to Rep. Joe Heck, December 5, 2016

Letter to Rep. Price about the Commissioned Corps, December 2016

Letter to FDA Commissioner Gottlieb May 2018

Executive Order 13473

Letter to OPM re. EO 13473 August 16, 2016

Letter from OPM re. Non-Competitive Hiring for PHS Spouses, Oct 2016


Letter to Senate Armed Services Committee leadership re. 2017 NDAA, 6 Sep 16

Letter to House Armed Services Committee leadership re. 2017 NDAA, 6 Sep 16 

Letter (31 January 2017) to Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) proposing $5 million in PHS officer training funds as part of the HHS authorization bill  

Letter to Congress opposing certain asbestos legislation, Feb 2017

Letter to Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) re. a commission to study a reserve component for the USPHS, March 2017

Letter to the Congressional Public Health Caucus about CDC Funding, March 2017

Letter to Chairman Brad Wenstrup re. HR 1662, Making VA Facilities Smoke-Free, March 2017

Letter to House Appropriators about Zika Funding, March 2017

Letter to Majority Leader McConnell re. Nomination of Dr. Brett Giroir Sep 2017

Letter to Senators Hatch and Wyden re. Nomination of John Bartrum Sep 2017

Letter to Democratic Leader Schumer re. Nomination of Dr. Giroir Sep 2017 

IFR 29 Sept. 2017   

DHA COMM DIV_Take Command Communications Tool Kit_Nov 2017_Outreach Partners

Letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander re. word banning Dec. 2017

GAO Report on the Commissioned Corps, 1996

COA response to President’s budget proposal Feb 2018

Letter to House Census Bureau Oversight Committee April 2018

Washington Post story about TMC letter on school vouchers for dependent children, 10 Apr 

Letter to Sen. Blumenthal re. Tobacco in Movies, June 2018
(Identical letters were sent to Senators Brown, Durbin, Gillibrand, Markey, Murray, and Van Hollen) 

White House proposal for reorganizing the Commissioned Corps, Jun 2018     

PHS Officer as White House Physician

Letter to Clinton Transition Team Chair Salazar on PHS Officer as White House Physician, Sep 2016 

Letter to Trump Transition Team Chair Christie on PHS Officer as White House Physician, Sep 2016

Maternity Leave for Commissioned Corps Officers

Letter from Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy on Maternity Leave

FAQ's Regarding Maternity Leave Policy

Official Policy on Maternity Leave


Letter to the Montgomery (MD) County Council re. tax relief

Letter to President Trump urging appointment of RADM Anne Schuchat as CDC Director

Letter to Navy Federal Credit Union, Feb 2017

Letter to Navy Gateway Inns & Suites, March 2017

Letter to FootLocker CEO asking for discount, March 2017

Letter to 911 Memorial Museum in New York City May 2017

Letter to South Carolina DMV about "veteran" on driver's license Aug 2017

Letter to PenFed re. Military Cash Back program August 21, 2017

Letter from Verizon announcing USPHS discounts Sep 2017

Letter to GSA re. Interior South Building, Sep 2017

Letter to South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, Oct 2017

Letter from South Carolina DMV Oct 2017

Letter from South Carolina DMV Oct 31, 2017

Letter to Sen. Patty Murray re. nomination of Dr. Giroir, Nov 2017

Letter to Walter Reed Commander re. Smoking Dec 2017

Letter from The Military Coalition to Congressional Leadership re. TRICARE charges, December 2017

Letter of Appreciation to Minneapolis Armed Forces Service Center, December 2017 

Letter supporting RADM (Dr.) Anne Schuchat for CDC Director Jan 2018

Letter to Walter Reed Director re. smoking on the medical center grounds Feb 2018

Letter to the editor of Smithsonian Magazine, April 2018

Letter to Kennedy Center Board Chairman, April 2018

Letter to Thrift Savings Plan Chairman April 2018

USA Today article 18 April 2018

Letter to Universal Studios about health warning in Darkest Hour Apr 2018

Letter to Mission BBQ May 2018

Letter to Kennedy Center Board Chair, May 2018

Letter to T-Mobile re. Military/Veteran Discounts May 2018

Letter to Vail Resort re. military discount March 2018

Letter to FDA Commissioner Gottlieb, May 2018

Letter to the Texas DMV June 2018

Letter to the Thrift Savings Plan, June 2018

Letter to Marriott Corporation Jun 2018

Letter to Starbucks, June 2018

Letter to T-Mobile, May 2018

Letter to Kennedy Center President re. Smoking on Stage, January 2018 Response from Kennedy center President re. Smoking on Stage, March 2018

Letter to ID.me, June 2018

Veterans Affairs Department

VA Form: Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker

VA Form: Claim for Government Medallion for Placement in Private Cemetery

Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between HHS and the VA, 13 January 2017

Military.com story about the VA ID card and USPHS officers, 10 Apr 18

Military.com story about the Veterans ID Card May 2018

MOAA article about Veterans ID Card and the USPHS, April 2018

Letter to Acting VA Secretary re. bronze grave medallions May 2018

Surgeon General

New York Times story about Murthy dismissal, April 2017

USA Today story about Murthy dismissal, April 2017

Washington Post story about Murthy dismissal, April 2017

Politico Story about the Murthy Dismissal April 2017

Federal law on Surgeon General appointment

Letter to HHS Secretary Price re. Surgeon General Appointment, April 2017

Letter to President Trump re. Surgeon General Appointment, April 2017

Letter to Democratic Leader Schumer re. Nomination of a New Surgeon General, April 2017 

Letter to Majority Leader McConnell re. Nomination of a New Surgeon General, April 2017

Letter to The Washington Post from Surgeon General Carmona, April 2017

Instant Admirals and the Plague of Politics in the United States Public Health Service, VADM (ret.) Richard Carmona, Military Medicine, May/June 2017

Letter from The Military Coalition to President Trump concerning the Surgeon General Nomination, May 2017

Letter to Surgeon General Nominee Adams, June 2017

Presentation to Surgeon General Adams about COA and COF November 2017

Surgeon General’s Message to the Commissioned Corps on the Suspension of Special Pay, January 2018

Native Americans

Letter to Museum of the American Indian Director, June 2018

Letter to Rick West, ex-Director of Museum of the American Indian, June 2018

Letter to Chairman Powell, Commission of Fine Arts, re. Native American Veterans Memorial July 2018



Jan. 2015 - Letter to Brig. Gen. Tata, NC DMV
Feb. 2015 - Response from NC Dept. of Transportation
Feb. 2015 - Senate Armed Services Committee Invitation to Comment on the MCRMC Report
Jun. 2015 - Letter on Pitts Amendment to Cut the Prevention and Public Health Fund