Highlights of BUMED Specialty Leader Business Meeting

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I was recently selected to be the Emergency Medicine Specialty Leader, and earlier this week I attended the BUMED Business Meeting for Specialty Leaders and Program Directors.  Below are the highlights I thought were of interest to a general Medical Corps audience:

  1. BUPERS is removing the AZ (above zone) and IZ (in zone) stamps on the Officer Summary Records (OSR) for all promotion boards starting with the upcoming FY17 promotion boards.  Some feel that when officers are labelled “AZ” that board members assume that something must be wrong with them since they failed to select previously.  This is being done to reduce the chance of that bias (if it even really exists).  Obviously if you have been passed over for promotion and you have a ton of FITREPs at your current rank or the board members closely scrutinize your date of rank on the OSR, they will be able to figure out pretty easily that you are AZ, but without the stamp it will make it harder for them to do so.
  2. There is a POSSIBILITY that they change the promotions in the future so that the top 10% of officers selected for promotion get to put the new rank on first.  Currently the order your promote is based on your lineal number and seniority.  In other words, the officers who have been passed over most get to put the new rank on first.  They MAY switch to a system where merit determines who promotes sooner rather than seniority.
  3. DMHRSi is something that very few Medical Corps officers like, but you should realize that the data you put into it is clearly used by BUMED to make decisions that impact manning and measure your productivity.  You should do what you can to correctly reflect your workload in DMHRSi.
  4. The rollout of the new electronic medical record is slated to begin in the Pacific northwest in 2016, but it MIGHT be pushed to the right into 2017.  The total rollout is scheduled over a 5 year period.
  5. The career intermission program is being expanded.  You can use it to take up to 3 years off, essentially hitting the pause button on your career.  You retain 1/15th of your basic pay and your benefits, like TRICARE, and will owe a 2 for 1 time to the Navy upon your return.  For example, if you take 2 years off, you’ll owe 4 years when you return to active duty.  When you return, your lineal number and promotion cycle is reset so that you don’t lose any time and you jump back into a year group that you can compete with for promotion.  There is info on the program here, OPNAV 1330.2B – Navy Career Intermission Program Guidelines or at this website.
  6. The conference approval process is arduous and painful, but it MIGHT be getting easier.  For now it will remain the same and require multiple forms.  If you are going to something that is a “course” and not a “conference” then your Specialty Leader can see if BUMED legal will exempt the course from the approval process.  The POC in that office says that courses have been exempted successfully, and once they are exempted then all officers can use that exemption if their command is willing to pay for the course.  Here is the conference approval webpage.  You should always check here for the latest information.

4th Step to Financial Freedom – Contribute Maximally to Your Tax-Favored Retirement Accounts

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The benefits of tax-favored retirement plans like the Thrift Savings Plan or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) are too great to ignore, and over the span of your career sheltering your investment earnings from the taxman will benefit you tremendously.  For example, assume that you make a $4,000 annual contribution for 45 years and earn an 8% annual return.  Here is how much you would have if you invested in a taxable investment account versus a tax-deferred account:

  • Taxable investment total – $604,407
  • Tax-deferred investment total – $1,669,670

As you can see, the power of keeping your investment returns and not paying taxes on them can lead to huge differences in the amount of investment growth you will experience.

The primary tax-favored investment account that is available to us is the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  If possible, you should always contribute the maximum amount each year, which is $18,000/year in 2015 and 2016 ($24,000/year if you are over 50).  You may be able to contribute more if you are deployed in a combat zone.  See this TSP Annual Limit on Elective Deferrals PDF to read about the details.

After you fill your TSP, open an IRA and, again, contribute the maximum amount each year.  The contribution limits for 2015 and 2016 are $5,500/year ($6,500/year if you are over 50).

For both the TSP and IRA you’ll face the decision of whether to contribute to a Roth or traditional version.  Roth contributions are taxed now, meaning you make after tax contributions and future withdrawals are tax free.  Traditional contributions are taxed when you withdraw, meaning you make pre-tax contributions now and pay taxes later.  For younger or military people, the Roth is usually more advantageous because your tax rate is lower than it will be in the future, but there are many on-line calculators to help you decide which option is best for you, including:

https://www.tsp.gov/PlanningTools/Calculators/contributionComparison.html

http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/retirement/roth-traditional-ira-calculator.aspx

Here is a great comparison chart from Vanguard:

https://investor.vanguard.com/ira/roth-vs-traditional-ira

The Roth IRA does require an adjusted gross income of less than $117,000/year (single) or $184,000/year (married) in 2016 to fully contribute, but there is a way around this called a “backdoor” Roth IRA.  For a tutorial on how to do this, go to:

http://whitecoatinvestor.com/backdoor-roth-ira-tutorial/

If you moonlight as an independent contractor (you’ll know because you will be paid with a Form 1099), you will have other tax-favored options available to you, including a SEP-IRA or Solo 401k.  In these accounts you can often contribute a lot more money.  For a full discussion of them see:

http://whitecoatinvestor.com/sep-ira-vs-solo-401k/

The bottom line is that to maximize your net worth you need to maximize your contributions to all tax-favored retirement accounts you have available to you.  Hiding your investment earnings from the taxman will allow you to accumulate a lot more for retirement.

 

Summer 2016 Senior War College Spots Available (O5/O6)

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There are unfilled spots for O5/O6 at the Naval Senior War College (Newport, RI) or the Army equivalent (Carlisle, PA).  You need to have completed JPME I or be on track to complete it by the spring.  In addition, you have to be willing to go to one of these places for a year and be at your PRD (or eligible to move) in summer 2016.

If you are interested, contact your Detailer ASAP.

Should You Send a Letter to the Promotion Board?

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Assuming you are at least in zone or above zone, the answer is yes if:

  • You are above-zone and wish to be considered for promotion. You will be considered whether you send a letter or not, but you should always send a letter to demonstrate interest in getting promoted when you are above zone. In general, you should try to get letters of recommendation from the most senior members who know you well enough to discuss your contributions to the Navy and why you should get promoted. For example, it is probably better to get a letter from an O6 who knows you well than to get a letter from an O8 who does not. Your specialty leader is always a solid choice as a letter writer if you are unsure who to get one from.
  • You are reporting to a new command before the FITREP cycle and your Commanding Officer is willing to write a positive letter about your contributions to your new command.
  • You have issues in your record or career that require explanation or amplifying information. For example, you want to tell the promotion board how promotion to the next rank will allow you to do something you can’t do at your present rank, like screen for XO. If there are any gaps in your military service or any new information not on your FITREPs, these may need explanation as well.
  • You have to make corrections/additions to your record (like missing or illegible FITREPs, awards, academic or professional achievements, etc.) but you either don’t have time to update them the standard way or your have tried without success.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • After the board is finished, anything you sent is discarded. You cannot permanently update your record by sending documentation to the board.
  • By law, a letter to the board must be considered. In other words, if you don’t want the board to discuss a topic, don’t mention it in a letter. If there is adverse information in your record, sending a letter discussing it may help if you have amplifying information to add. Then again, if it is something they might not have noticed, sending a letter discussing it ensures that they will notice it!
  • Your Commanding Officer usually should not write a letter if he/she has done a FITREP on you, as his/her opinion should be reflected in the FITREP.
  • They are usually not recommended if you are in-zone unless there is a reason to send a letter listed above. Do not send one just for the fun of it.
  • Keep the length of letters to a minimum – one page or less – as boards have to read everything that is sent to them.
  • Do not send copies of publications.
  • Only the service member can send the letter on his/her behalf. In other words, if you have a letter from an admiral, you need to send it to the board. Don’t have the admiral’s aide send it because it will just get shredded and will not be briefed to the board.
  • Your letter must arrive no later than the day before (2359) the board convenes.

HOW DO I WRITE/SEND THE LETTER?

Here are a Sample Letter to a Promotion Board and Promotion Board Correspondence FAQs. Also, see the following website:

http://www.public.navy.mil/BUPERS-NPC/BOARDS/ACTIVEDUTYOFFICER/Pages/default.aspx

2016-7 White House Fellowship Instruction Released

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Here is the new White House Fellowship Instruction.  This fellowship is super competitive and difficult to get, but is a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone interested.  All of the info on the fellowship is contained in the instruction or can be found here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/fellows

USUHS Commandant Position Available

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The following is available for O5/O6 officers with a desired fill date of 1 DEC 2016.  Please contact your Detailer by 30 NOV 2015 if interested.

Commandant, School of Medicine

The Commandant of the USU School of Medicine (SOM) is the senior military officer-in-charge of all officers assigned as students to the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine. With the support of the Army, Navy, Air Force,
and Public Health Service Company Commanders, the Commandant exercises command and control over the medical and graduate students assigned to the University.

The mission of the Office of the Commandant is to provide military leadership, to teach and instill “officership”, and to support medical education and professional development so that each student achieves the goal of becoming a world class military physician.

The Commandant reports to the Brigade Commander for military issues and chain of command accountability and serves as the military advisor to the Dean of the SOM. Duties and responsibilities of the Commandant, SOM include:
-Deputy Brigade Commander
-Chairman, Board of Review of Inter-service Transfers
-Member, Student Promotions Committee
-Member, Student Award Committee
-Advisor to the Dean and Associate Dean for Student Affairs
-Provides student resources for Service-specific military career counseling and officer professional development
-Model, stimulate, and foster professional leadership and officership
-Directs Service-specific mandated programs such as physical fitness, weight control, urinalysis testing, officer professional development, and equal opportunity
-Serves as a facilitator for military administrative requirements

How to Get on a Promotion Board

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The promotion boards for FY17 are rapidly approaching, so I wanted to briefly discuss who makes up the promotion boards and how to get on one.

COMPOSITION OF THE BOARDS

The promotion boards consist of five voting members, and at least three of them are required to have board experience. Someone is designated the senior member or board president. In addition, there is always a line officer on medical corps boards, and this is one reason you can’t use medical abbreviations on your FITREPs without explaining what they mean. That line officer could be the one briefing your record and he/she may not know what AHLTA, STEMI, DM, or CVA mean. The remainder of the board will be filled by a diverse group of officers. There will always be at least one woman on the board and one minority, although the same person could meet both of these requirements. In addition, there will be a geographic dispersion including at least one member from outside the continental US (OCONUS).

The board recorders are the officers who review your record for a week before the board members arrive and the board convenes. There will be a head recorder as well as assistant recorders and they will all be from CONUS. In other words, you cannot serve as a board recorder if you are stationed OCONUS because it just costs too much money for travel.

HOW DO I GET ON A PROMOTION BOARD?

This one is simple as you just have to e-mail your Detailer and ask. Keep in mind, though, that the demand to be on a board far outnumbers the spots that exist. When I was a Detailer I had a folder in my Outlook e-mail where I put everyone who wanted to be on a board, and there were between 50-100 names in there. During the 15 months I served at PERS, I only had to contribute about 10 names for a board. With the requirements related to board composition that we discussed above, opportunities may only be present for officers meeting these requirements.