Trump Signs National Defense Authorization Act, Includes Positive Developments for PA Education

The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA) was signed into law last month by President Trump. Renewed on an annual basis, the NDAA sets authorization levels for defense-related spending and enacts policy regarding the implementation of funded activities.

The NDAA contains exciting news for the PA profession, PA education, and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Medics. The law includes a provision previously introduced by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) as S. 2668. This provision would allow the Department of Defense (DoD) to implement a pilot program intended to expedite the process by which active duty SOCOM medics may attend PA school and become PAs following their period of service on the basis of their acquired skills.

This pilot program is designed to build upon the success of an existing partnership between the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the Carolinas Healthcare System, and Wake Forest University. The law would allow SOCOM medics to establish partnerships with PA programs to undertake didactic education and then complete their clinical training in DoD medical facilities and/or in the civilian sector.

“I was proud to support the expansion of our efforts to encourage SOCOM medics to become PAs after their period of service. This pilot program will be invaluable in expanding access to the PA profession for our nation’s servicemembers,” said Gail Curtis, MPAS, PA-C, chair of the Wake Forest PA program.

Within 180 days of the enactment of the NDAA, the DoD is required to issue a preliminary report to Congress. This report will include a comprehensive framework for the education to be provided to medics in collaboration with institutions of higher education and health care systems, evaluation metrics, and funding streams to cover the cost of the education provided. Following the completion of the five-year pilot program, the law requires the DoD to issue a second report to Congress evaluating the success of the initiative, its funding mechanisms, and its impact on the recruitment and retention of SOCOM medics.

PAEA was proud to offer a letter of support for this program in May and commends Senators Burr and Murray for their advocacy and leadership on behalf of PA education and the PA profession.