The Western Washington Area Health Education Center Veterans Grant Steering Committee – 2012 – 2015

By Kathy Kinsey and Tommy Simpson III

From 2012 to 2015, Western Washington Area Health Education Centers (WWAHEC), facilitated The Veteran’s Grant Steering Committee (VGSC), which served to help military-trained, enlisted health professions across multiple entry-level occupational specialties, transition into civilian-equivalent positions, by attaining credentials issued by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). The committee worked with numerous stakeholders across the state to also help develop and implement “gap” programs to supplement shortfalls in education, training, and experience to becoming credentialed.

The Steering Committee was a multi-agency task force consisting primarily of members of the Washington State DOH, the Washington Center for Nursing and the Allied Health Center of Excellence. Other key stakeholders included the Washington State Military Transition Council (representing military transition assistance leaders from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard to include Guard and Reserve. Strategic partners included all 34 State Boards of Community and Technical Colleges, the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs , Hire America’s Heroes, and Rally Point 6 . Also, the committee networked and allianced with the Washington Association of Community and Migrant Health Centers, local and dispersed hospitals across the state, and finally The University of Washington, MEDEX  Northwest Physician Assistant Training program.

The Steering Committee achieved many successes and progress and was instrumental in assisting newly-hired, Department of Health Military Liaison with developing a comprehensive Military-to-Civilian “Crosswalk,” which identified approximately 30 entry-level health professions whereby civilian-equivalent health credentials may be issued outright without further challenge. Additionally, “gaps” were pre-identified and viable career pathways developed to achieve certifications or licensure.  A first of its kind, the ‘crosswalk’ has become a model nationally for States seeking to assist actively serving and transitioning military service members and their families.

The VGSC in alliance with DOH helped develop several manual, and online tools and resources. These products are critical to streamlining credentialing processes for USN Hospital Corpsman (HM), USA Medics (68W), USAF Aerospace Medical Technicians (AMTs), and USCG Health Services (HS) Technicians, which once stood at greater than 90-days, and now down to a mere 10-days or less. The VGSC in partnership with the stakeholders above significantly impacted job opportunity growth and upward education mobility for service members, healthcare providers and job-seekers alike across Western and Eastern WA. The VGSC assisted the DOH Military Liaison with validating outright issuance of in-demand career credentials such as medical and nursing assistant, phlebotomy technician, surgical technologist, dental assistant, X-ray/radiological technician, emergency medical technician (EMT), pharmacy technician, occupational/physical therapy assistant technician (OTA/PTA), veterinary technician and even mental health technician. Spouses and registered domestic partners inbound and or already stationed in WA with valid out-of-state credentials deemed substantially to WA’s high credentialing standards are also fast-tracked when able to provide adequate military-affiliated documentation such as valid military I.D., marriage certificate or military orders.

The VGSC, working with partners and WWAHEC developed surveys of transitioning services member military occupational designations and health sector vacancies matching in-demand jobs. These efforts, in turn, facilitated healthcare human resource directors to better perceive needs, and address recruitment and retention barriers to hiring highly trained/experienced veterans. Aforementioned, the VGSC helped to address, and fill gaps in military education, training, and experience which limits service members from finding equivalent civilian positions because of degree, certification, and licensing requirements. Through advocacy and research, the VGSC learned that MEDEX Northwest  cohorts include a significant percentage of veterans. Advocacy efforts with the Washington State DOH, Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, Pierce and Olympic College Schools of Nursing anticipates beginning bachelor level registered nurse bridge programs for military-trained Medics within the next two years.

While all efforts above have yielded positive results, problems still exist for many transitioning veterans. Advocacy for increased communication and coordination between agencies, more recognition and opportunities for our veterans with military healthcare experience, and greater dissemination of successful programs that serve our veterans is needed. Advocacy is not just important for veterans, but the whole nation’s health. With the continuing draw down of our country’s forces, these highly trained, educated and experienced veterans will return to diverse communities in both urban and rural areas.  Continued advocacy on behalf of those who choose to serve his/her country will ensure a robust and accessible healthcare system for all Americans.

The WWAHEC’s grant was in place for only a limited time. Yet, even after funding had dissipated, the WWAHEC continued to meet, and facilitate until budget cuts caused the nonprofit to be dissolved completely in 2016. The work of the VGSC and the initiatives started have had long-lasting effects, thus enabling the facilitation of efforts to continue.

About the Authors

Kathy Kinsey

Kathy Kinsey

Kathy Kinsey, RN, MSN, MPH, MPA, PhD Suquamish Tribal Elder Social Work Supervisor/Community Health Nurse P.O. Box 498 18490 Suquamish Way, Suquamish, WA 98392 phone 360-394-8535 fax 360-598-6740 kkinsey@suquamish.nsn.us

 

  • US Army Nurse Corps 1979-1988
  • Served in uniform from 1979 to 2004,
  • Retired Captain US Public Health Service Commission Corps,
  • A career working with American Indians and Alaska Natives
Tommy Simpson III

Tommy Simpson III

Health Services Consultant - Military Projects Program Manager - Ocularists HSQA/HP 5-yr Rules Scan Coordinator Department of Health Health Systems Quality Assurance (HSQA) Office of Health Professions P: 360.236.4910 ~ F: 360.236.2901 DOH Provider Lookup: https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/providercredentialsearch/ Tommy.Simpson@DOH.WA.GOV

 

  • US Army – 26 years
    – Served in medical management field as a medic, emergency technician and practical nurse
  • 2012 – Retired Veteran
    – Clinic Manager and LPN in nonprofit sector
  • 2013 – Washington State Department of Health
    – Health Services Consultant – Military Projects
    – Program Manager – Ocularists
    – HSQA/HP 5 Year Rules Scan Coordinator