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.
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
Benefits for USPHS Officers
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)
Letter to USAA requesting full membership for USPHS officers, December 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 GM Company about military discounts, February 2077
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
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.
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 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
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
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
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
Memorandum from OMB and OPM exempting the Commissioned Corps from the civilian hiring freeze, 31 Jan 17
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