Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
SpaghettiSorting

20 years... does it ever happen?

Recommended Posts

Hi all,

 

Finishing up my didactic year (fun, fun) and I keep reading articles about how the Navy/Air force/Army/etc is involuntarily separating people at 14 years to lower the number of pensions they have to hand out, essentially. I myself don't know if I really have any plans of staying in past my initial commitment since I plan to see how my fiance and I adjust to military life, but it has occurred to me that I know very few military PAs that have stayed in past one or two contracts.  Why do you think that is?  Are civilian PA jobs just much more appealing than military PA jobs or is the government not particularly interested in keeping PAs in service?  To some extent, the armed forces makes cuts at the end of every war obviously, but I suppose I would still expect to see more long-term PAs than I have.  Or maybe I just seriously underestimate the appeal of civilian life.

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know how things are now, however, when I went into the Air Force at age 34, I was thinking retirement at 54.  However, soon after I got in, it became clear to me to make rank (and I came in as a captain) I would be facing a huge bottle neck as time went on and it would almost impossible for me to retire. I knew that I would eventually face a forced separation.  I was a Hawkeye Pierce type so I didn't have a chance.  A friend, who bled Air Force blue, who was a Air Force dependent, who played golf with the base comander, who did everything that a perfect Air Force PA would do . . . got passed over for Lt Col and had to separate at 16 years . . . then I knew it was hopeless for someone like me who refused to give the base comander's wife antibiotics in the ER for her cold. 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PAs have low visibility as the "ground pounder" for the clinic. You are there to see patients and that means little time working with higher ups, going for training, ect. Plus some just don't want to go operational, which is an unwritten requirement in the navy for your second tour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I work with 2 PAs(both army reserve)- one is 22 years in, another 28. it is doable apparently....another (air force) retired last yr with 33 yrs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I work with 2 PAs(both army reserve)- one is 22 years in, another 28. it is doable apparently....another (air force) retired last yr with 33 yrs.

I bet my bottom dollar though they started off as enlisted or warrant officers though. If you did 28-33 years and started as commissioned officer, you would have to make at O6-O7 (colonel/captain-LT General/rear admiral), which is very rare in the PA world.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the one at 22 retired as a special forces captain. he was offered promotion multiple times if he left SF, but didn't want to.

the guy still in at 28 yrs is a full colonel and the youngest PA colonel(if not colonel overall) in the army at age 45. will probably make general as he is being "fast tracked" for it.

The guy with 33 yrs retired as a major and refused a promotion to Lt Col because they wanted him to stay in longer .

They all started enlisted right out of high school.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the one at 22 retired as a special forces captain. he was offered promotion multiple times if he left SF, but didn't want to.

the guy still in at 28 yrs is a full colonel and the youngest PA colonel(if not colonel overall) in the army at age 45. will probably make general as he is being "fast tracked" for it.

The guy with 33 yrs retired as a major and refused a promotion to Lt Col because they wanted him to stay in longer .

They all started enlisted right out of high school.

Army captain = navy lieutenant = O3. I'll make that automatically by the end of my first tour since I started as an O2/LT junior grade. The max I could do as an O3 without promoting beyond, if I were lucky, is 9 years before being shown the door. Major = LCDR = O4, which is what I should be by year 9 and would max me out about 15-17 years. I would have to make commander = LT Cololnel=o5 to retire. Docs usually make navy captain=colonel near their 20. This is a little more forgiving in the reserves, according to the PA reservist that I just worked with. I assume because they don't have to pay out the typical pension to the reserves and instead do a point calculation system vs straight years of service.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Army captain = navy lieutenant = O3. I'll make that automatically by the end of my first tour since I started as an O2/LT junior grade. The max I could do as an O3 without promoting beyond, if I were lucky, is 9 years before being shown the door. Major = LCDR = O4, which is what I should be by year 9 and would max me out about 15-17 years. I would have to make commander = LT Cololnel=o5 to retire. Docs usually make navy captain=colonel near their 20. This is a little more forgiving in the reserves, according to the PA reservist that I just worked with. I assume because they don't have to pay out the typical pension to the reserves and instead do a point calculation system vs straight years of service.

my buddy at 28 years has 8 yrs active, 2 deployments as a pa reservist, and does lots of extra stuff to max out his points...several weekends/mo, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

my buddy at 28 years has 8 yrs active, 2 deployments as a pa reservist, and does lots of extra stuff to max out his points...several weekends/mo, etc.

Those reservists are smart fellows. The one I met works for the VA because they pay your salary when you have to do your 2 weeks. Big money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all,

 

Finishing up my didactic year (fun, fun) and I keep reading articles about how the Navy/Air force/Army/etc is involuntarily separating people at 14 years to lower the number of pensions they have to hand out, essentially. I myself don't know if I really have any plans of staying in past my initial commitment since I plan to see how my fiance and I adjust to military life, but it has occurred to me that I know very few military PAs that have stayed in past one or two contracts.  Why do you think that is?  Are civilian PA jobs just much more appealing than military PA jobs or is the government not particularly interested in keeping PAs in service?  To some extent, the armed forces makes cuts at the end of every war obviously, but I suppose I would still expect to see more long-term PAs than I have.  Or maybe I just seriously underestimate the appeal of civilian life.

From what I've seen, the military is not currently separating providers (at least not the Air Force). For the most part, the RIF (reduction in force) ended last year.

 

I considered making the Air Force my career, but my experience at my first base was bad enough to make me not want to make a commitment of any kind for a while. Of course, YMMV.

 

I may join the reserves at some point, but I'd like to be contract-free for at least a little while. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a good discussion. I can give you all my perspective. Next month I will have been in the Navy 24 years. 14 of that enlisted and 10 as an officer and a PA. I have done well and am on track as far as promotion (LCDR O-4), but I have also taken some difficult assignments in the past 10 years. The truth of the matter is regardless of what medical specialty you are, MD, DO, PA, NP, Nurse,Dietician, PT, etc. the longer you stay in the military the more you will move further away from direct patient care. It is just the nature of the beast. A prime example is my director, she is a Navy Captain (O-6) and an NP. She hasn't done direct patient care in a number of years, she was just selected to become the XO of a major naval medical facility and she will most likely become an admiral in the future. A friend of mine is also an NP and turned down a department head job to stay in patient care. She was passed over for O-5 but she is ok with that and she will retire as an O-4. I also have a friend of mine who is not prior enlisted and is a PA, he just pinned on O-6. Somehow he was able to stay predominantly in patient care his entire career until now when he was made a director at BUMED. I think for everyone's military experience is different, however I think everyone can agree that there is no higher calling than serving your country and regardless if you serve 3 years or 30 the experience changes you for the better and makes you a more versatile health care professional.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PAs have low visibility as the "ground pounder" for the clinic. You are there to see patients and that means little time working with higher ups, going for training, ect. Plus some just don't want to go operational, which is an unwritten requirement in the navy for your second tour.

 

Or your first tour!  I'm not sure I would call the operational requirement an "unwritten rule," since I know that sea-shore rotations are actually written down somewhere (at least for enlisted folks).  Ours is currently 2/3, recently changed from 3/3, is it not?

 

Anyway, to the OP's point, it seems like many of the non-prior service, direct accession PA's I know get out after one or two tours.  It is tougher for them to do the full 20 years, because they will have to promote higher than I will, for example.  Also, however, they're simply less invested in the system, and the tug of civilian life (and potentially higher incomes as a seasoned PA on the outside - I would argue that for a new-grad PA, we actually make above average, but I digress) is that much stronger.

 

For the prior service guys, it's a little different.  Using myself as an example, I got commissioned as an O-2 with 10 years in service already.  I owed the Navy at least 4 years at that point.  When I transfer next year, it will be on 3-year orders, which will put me at a little over 15 years of service before I'm able to separate voluntarily.  Obviously, it makes no sense to get out less than 5 years from pension eligibility.  Theoretically, I suppose I could be involuntarily separated if I fail to select for O-4, but I'll be at 18 or 19 years of service and, in practice, I don't think that ever happens.  However, I see no reason why I won't be selected for O-4 within the next 9 years, anyway.  I may actually stay in beyond 20 years, depending where I'm at personally and how my career is going.

 

It's true that advancement in the Navy for PA's gets bottle-necked.  I believe we have one O-6 right now.  We have a handful of O-5's, and all the ones I know of are very senior, experienced PA's.  Promotion to O-4 is competitive by definition, but not prohibitively so, assuming you hit all the right wickets (don't pass up operational tours, or fail to qualify for a warfare device, for example).  

 

Also, it's easy to fall into the mentality of "I'm a provider" and neglect your professional development as an officer, which sometimes seems at odds with your role as a PA.  I know I'm guilty of that, sometimes.  But I know that when I get to my next command (a shore command) I'm going to have to make every effort to get out of my PA box and be the officer the Navy demands I be.  Like I said, I see no reason why I won't be able to retire at 20 years as a LCDR (O-4) and, I bet if I wanted to, and was willing to put in the extra years, I could retire as a CDR (O-5).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all,

 

Finishing up my didactic year (fun, fun) and I keep reading articles about how the Navy/Air force/Army/etc is involuntarily separating people at 14 years to lower the number of pensions they have to hand out, essentially. I myself don't know if I really have any plans of staying in past my initial commitment since I plan to see how my fiance and I adjust to military life, but it has occurred to me that I know very few military PAs that have stayed in past one or two contracts.  Why do you think that is?  Are civilian PA jobs just much more appealing than military PA jobs or is the government not particularly interested in keeping PAs in service?  To some extent, the armed forces makes cuts at the end of every war obviously, but I suppose I would still expect to see more long-term PAs than I have.  Or maybe I just seriously underestimate the appeal of civilian life.

Multifactorial is an understatement.

As pointed out in depth above, military careers are specific to branch of service, prior service, performance as an officer and the 'need' overall.

Then there are the personal reasons, spouses, geographic preference, what the other side of the fence looks like, etc, etc.

I teach at a local PA program and there have been several students that have gone active duty through a variety of measures.

They know I have prior military experience and seek me out.

My advice to them is very simple. Use this time to gain as much experience as possible. During this time, if being in the military is still attractive on many fronts, then pursue what you desire. But keep in mind that there are factors that could work against you that you may have no control over. Military service can be very fickle and the reality is that there is always a need for a lot of enlistees, only some officers. Since it is a hierarchial organization, there is less room for senior staff of both. So the military will always need PAs whom are O1 to O3, less O4 and very few of the rest. They also wont let you stay O3 for decades just to get a pension solely because one is a PA.

Good luck.

G Brothers PA-C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know this post is pretty old but, I would love to get an update on all of your careers. I am in a situation like HMtoPA where by the time I commission as a PA and complete my obligations it would make the most sense to “stick it out” and gain as much experience as possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wasn't in the original convo...but currently scouring the boards and giving my input wherever I see a chance ha. I'm at 1.5 years/3 years of my initial commitment thru Navy HSCP. Deploying shortly and upon my return will start processing my papers to get out. Looking forward to doing a civilian fellowship and moving on with my life.

Edit: no prior military experience so I'm a one and doner. Can't see myself sticking around for even 3 more years.

Edited by ncsunavypac

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, ncsunavypac said:

Wasn't in the original convo...but currently scouring the boards and giving my input wherever I see a chance ha. I'm at 1.5 years/3 years of my initial commitment thru Navy HSCP. Deploying shortly and upon my return will start processing my papers to get out. Looking forward to doing a civilian fellowship and moving on with my life.

Edit: no prior military experience so I'm a one and doner. Can't see myself sticking around for even 3 more years.

Would you be willing to elaborate on your reasons for separating? I'm a PA-S2 on Navy HSCP and as we move closer to graduation,  I'm trying to get a sense of the good and bad of being a Navy PA (especially without any prior service). In my head, I imagine myself enjoying it, it's been a lifelong dream to become a Navy officer. But, having never been there, I have no idea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, vb315 said:

Would you be willing to elaborate on your reasons for separating? I'm a PA-S2 on Navy HSCP and as we move closer to graduation,  I'm trying to get a sense of the good and bad of being a Navy PA (especially without any prior service). In my head, I imagine myself enjoying it, it's been a lifelong dream to become a Navy officer. But, having never been there, I have no idea.

Everyone's experience is very unique, I'll start with that, given the variety of duty stations/location/people you work with/patient population/speciality you work in- So it is definitely not wise to make future decisions based on what someone else says. That being said I had some people warn me before committing to the Navy that it "wasn't what I thought" but I chose to ignore them and find out for myself what that means. I'll PM you the rest. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is interesting, I’m sorry I missed it when it came up originally. In fact, just yesterday I was having this conversation with an Air Force O5 pilot and an army O4 signal officer. All of our communities are suffering from the same problem- services can’t retain guys beyond mid grade officers because things look so much better on the outside (the Air Force is >2000 pilots short). I agree with someone above who said that for early career PA’s, our bonuses bring us at or even above civilian range (at least for FP). After O4 or so, though, we can’t compete with civilian pay. And who wouldnt get burnt out seeing shin splints and back pain for 20 years? I’ve got 16 in and will make 20, but won’t stay a second longer  

i also agree that direct commission PA’s who come in at O3 have a tougher time making rank for a full 20. We should revisit the Up or Out rule for those guys, if they want to stay.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopefully I'll make it to 20. I'm using HSCP now. Upon graduation I'll be at 9 years AD and O2E, just need that 11 more years. Upon the first obligatory service time I'll be at 12 years, probably do an expeditionary tour/duty station getting to around 14-15 years, then go ER fellowship and can last until I reach 20. Hearing the challenges of advancing as a Navy PA gives me slight anxiety though. ?

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey guys I just received the navy HPSP. I’m not sure this is helpful but the higher in rank you get the more administrative your role becomes, which is ultimately why I will probably only do the 3 year commitment. My recruiter said that it will be nearly impossible for me to get assigned to a ship as that is mostly volunteer based and they want a lot of experience, does anyone know of this is true? I was also told it would be unlikely for me to be deployed as they are only taking volunteers for deployment at this time. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you asking for a hospital ship? You won’t get that. You won’t get stationed with a grey hull either if you’re only staying 3 years. If you are stationed on a marine base, you’re more likely to be deployed than not. If stationed on a navy base, probably not. Recruiters don’t know jack about PA life, deployment rates, promotion rates, or anything else. 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was (still am in) a blue side billet at a Marine base. Detailer told me there was almost no chance I’d deploy out of there. 9 months into this duty station I’d been tasked 3 times for IA deployments. Once last December, then got pulled from that workup to be a replacement for a PA that got injured on another workup, then that task force got downsized so I was cut, then immediately tasked a third time for the current deployment I’m on. When I return from this deployment I will have been gone from my original assigned clinic billet 1.5 years. So don’t believe everything you hear. Seems like high operational tempo for PAs going green side/with Marines  

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DISCLOSURE: I was never a PA in the Navy. I was a prior HM2 for eight years - I worked with a bunch of Navy PAs new, old, and retired.

I never saw one in a administrative only position. They were always working their asses off in the clinic. Just because you are on shore duty doesn't mean you wont get plucked for a deployment. The OIC of the aid station at the air field in Bahrain when I was deployed was plucked from shore duty for a year deployment. Hopefully you want to get deployed, thats why you're joining the military. Trust me, you'll want to deploy if you're put in family medicine. At the end of your three years you'll only be a junior LT, probably be a division officer, but still 90% seeing patients. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, CHACHEE said:

DISCLOSURE: I was never a PA in the Navy. I was a prior HM2 for eight years - I worked with a bunch of Navy PAs new, old, and retired.

I never saw one in a administrative only position. They were always working their asses off in the clinic. Just because you are on shore duty doesn't mean you wont get plucked for a deployment. The OIC of the aid station at the air field in Bahrain when I was deployed was plucked from shore duty for a year deployment. Hopefully you want to get deployed, thats why you're joining the military. Trust me, you'll want to deploy if you're put in family medicine. At the end of your three years you'll only be a junior LT, probably be a division officer, but still 90% seeing patients. 

I for sure wanted to deploy! Especially after I realized how boring clinic life is. I was just shocked at how quickly and how frequently  I got tasked. But definitely no complaints from me. I’ve loved being with the Marines. Working on my FMF qual while I’m out here. Very happy to have this opportunity. Lessons learned though- don’t believe everything the detailers/recruiters say, they’re just trying to fill spaces 

Edited by ncsunavypac
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, ncsunavypac said:

I for sure wanted to deploy! Especially after I realized how boring clinic life is. I was just shocked at how quickly and how frequently  I got tasked. But definitely no complaints from me. I’ve loved being with the Marines. Working on my FMF qual while I’m out here. Very happy to have this opportunity. Lessons learned though- don’t believe everything the detailers/recruiters say, they’re just trying to fill spaces 

Rah sir! Save a spot for me. hopefully getting picked up for the HSCP scholarship and commissioned in a couple years

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Welcome to the Physician Assistant Forum! This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn More