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Legislative Priorities, 2019-2021

  • Parity with the Armed Services
  • Inclusion of USPHS in the Smithsonian’s proposed National Native American Veterans Memorial
  • Defeat of the Office of Management and Budget’s proposal to cut the Commissioned Corps
  • Statutory flag for Corps Chief Medical Officer
  • Senate confirmation of all Corps officers
  • Appropriations for emergency preparedness training for Commissioned Corps officers
  • Appropriations for the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG)
  • Reinstatement of the USPHS Reserve Corps
  • Implementation of USPHS clinical billets at VA
  • Reducing tobacco use


Post-9/11 GI Bill Transferability

COA was vital to including PHS officers and their dependents as eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and transferability of those earned benefits. From 2008 through 2011, COA focused on convincing Congress and the Executive Branch to include PHS officers in all GI Bill benefits, especially the provision permitting them to transfer unused college educational benefits to dependents. Success came in stages; first in the context of a 2009 rulemaking, then in the 2010 passage of a new and improved federal statute, and finally, in the Defense Department’s issuance of policies recognizing PHS officers’ right to access the transferability provision. 

Disney Military Promotional Tickets

Because of COA efforts, Disney chose to include PHS and NOAA Corps officers as eligible for its Disney Military Promotional Tickets. Click here for the Disney website with additional information. COA encourages all officers and families who use the Disney Military Promotional Tickets to send a letter thanking Disney for their inclusion of PHS officers.

Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC)

In the very first sentence of its covering letter to the President and the U.S. Congress, the Commission made clear that a modernized system would include all seven Uniformed Services. Why is that a big deal? Because the President, in announcing the Commission, had directed its members to “consider the differences” between the armed services and the “other” uniformed services, meaning USPHS and NOAA. To COA, that sounded like an invitation to jettison both. And that would have been a devastating blow to both services, exacerbating the parity issue beyond repair. COA worked hard to ensure all seven services were at the table for any proposed changes to compensation and retirement.

Social Security Military Wage Credits

Do PHS officers get this military entitlement? In response to a letter from COA, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Retirement and Disability Policy responded promptly and said yes. So a benefit apparently unknown among PHS officers is clearly theirs to claim. See the letter here.

Expanded Health Coverage for Autistic Children

From 2011 through 2014, COA fought to include PHS children in legislative proposals that limited expanded coverage to the autistic children of Armed Services personnel. We succeeded in doing that, and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 told TRICARE to either get it done or explain to Congress why it couldn’t. TRICARE got it done, and PHS children with autism now have equal access to the treatment known as applied behavior analysis.

MWR Benefits

In May of 2011, the Defense Department updated the policies governing its Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Program to include the PHS Commissioned Corps “and their family members when they are on active duty.” See DoD Instruction 1015.10, linked here. But not everyone got the memo, it seems, so implementation remains a work in progress. Let us know when you run into problems.

Whistleblower Protections

In response to pleas from COA and outrage over FDA surveillance of agency employees, Senator Charles Grassley led the successful effort to grant whistleblower protections to PHS officers. It came in the form of reform legislation known as the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act.