Published: April 23, 2020
Through their military service, veterans fight for our country and protect our citizens. As a result of unique legislation in Virginia, veterans also have the ability to fight against COVID-19.
Although Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a stay at home order, the number of cases of infection continues to rise.
Leading and innovative policies have become increasingly important for the success of a state’s response to tackle COVID-19. And thanks to the Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) Program, Virginia is uniquely positioned to respond to the current crisis and expand their healthcare capacity.
In 2018, Virginia permanently established the MMAC Program after a successful trial period. The groundbreaking program permits veterans to use their relevant military background to enter healthcare occupations without being required to re-train. The program provides three pathways for veterans to enter the civilian medical field and begin practicing while earning their required credentials.
While some states offer accelerated training opportunities for veterans, Virginia has taken it to the next level to differentiate themselves. For instance, Illinois developed a bridge program to accept military training, shortening the amount of time veterans are required to study to become a Licensed Practical Nurse. Herzing University in Wisconsin allows former medics who are entering the Associate Degree Program in Nursing to join as second semester students. However, returning veterans are forced to put their career on hold and enroll in school full-time, which may cause a potential financial burden for the veteran and/or their families. Virginia leads the way by allowing veteran Virginians to work in healthcare while earning the accreditations they need to obtain a permanent occupational license.
Many veterans who transition from service to civilian life are unemployed, underemployed, or forced to work in unrelated fields. While Americans may understand the importance of honoring our veterans, what we haven’t acknowledged is the priority of honoring their previous military training and experience. Men and women who selflessly delay their civilian lives to serve our country lack occupational credentials despite their relevant skills and capabilities.
The MMAC program allows veterans to win the difficult battle of returning to civilian life and applying their military background. With the new challenge posed by the pandemic, MMAC allows veterans to join the fight against COVID-19.
As COVID-19 continues to spread and more people are infected, the demand for healthcare services will also increase and become more burdensome.
Quickly expanding the healthcare capacity is not an easy task. So using the readily available resource of qualified military veterans is an effective measure. Team Rubicon, a veteran-run disaster response organization, has called upon states to join Virginia and allow veterans with medical training to help overburdened hospitals.
A majority of states have already implemented emergency reforms in an effort to combat COVID-19 by expanding their healthcare capacity. But only Virginia allows the usage of veterans to mitigate the shortage of healthcare professionals. Veterans are well-trained and accustomed to the high pressure of treating contagious patients with life threatening conditions.
It’s imperative for state governments to reassess their pathways to licensure to help meet the sudden rise in demand for healthcare while ensuring high-quality patient care. With the implementation of the MMAC program, Virginia not only honors their veterans every day, but also has become a national leader to combat this epidemic.
Conor Norris is a research analyst and Alexis Schumacher is the outreach and public relations coordinator for the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA.