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(COURTESY OF THE WHITE HOUSE)

WASHINGTON — The White House announced a pair of initiatives Tuesday intended to help veterans find jobs in health care as part of its wider push to create 100,000 jobs for former military members and their spouses by 2014.

First, the administration said it would push the nation’s 8,000 community health centers each to hire one veteran, on average, over the next three years, positions paid for by federal funds already appropriated to help them hire more workers.

Second, the administration announced plans to fast-track military medics into programs to train them as physician assistants. The government has dedicated $45 million to support accelerated physician assistant training programs, and will now give priority for that money to universities that offer expedited programs for veterans with military medical training and that offer recruiting, retention and mentoring services aimed specifically at veterans.

Last week, President Barack Obama announced that a coalition of 270 packaged goods companies, including firms such as Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Unilever and ConAgra, had pledged to hire 25,000 veterans as part of the administration’s 100,000-job goal.

With the president’s job bill stalled in Congress, both efforts announced Tuesday are piecemeal provisions that don’t need congressional action. White House staff repeatedly used the administration’s new slogan, “We can’t wait,” in announcing the initiatives, echoing a message the president has espoused often in recent days.

“We can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job,” Obama told a small crowd during a speech in Nevada earlier this week. “Where they won’t act, I will.”

The physician assistant jobs are more of a long-term strategy that will require patience for veterans who benefit. It takes between 24 and 32 months to train a military medic to become a physician assistant, explained Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

While nothing is mandatory about the push for community health care centers to hire veterans, Tom Van Coverden, president of the National Association of Community Health Centers, said his organization “has embraced this fully and accepts this challenge.”

“These are our kids, the soldiers we’re training,” he said. “They’re our men and women. And the community health center is a natural healthy setting for those who care about service.”

murphyjrb@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @billmurphyjr


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