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National Guard (no MDSSP) to pay for medical school?

Discussion in 'Military Medicine' started by rollinstone23, 11.12.13.

  1. rollinstone23

    rollinstone23

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    So the information on this topic is pretty convoluted and I haven't found a good answer to my specific questions.

    I'm under the impression from the recruiter that if I sign up with the ARNG and go to my state public medical school (if I get in, in CT), tuition will be waived. Additionally, my payback time would start as soon as I am commissioned and theoretically the 8 year commitment would be fulfilled by the time I am done with my residency. Now, this sounds too good to be true. This would be WITHOUT taking any incentives like MDSSP or STRAP, so I would not be accumulating extra years that I would have to pay back after residency, but would instead be paying back my drill time while I was completing medical school and residency. Now, this sounds too good to be true. But, I am lucky enough to live in a state that covers 100% tuition at state universities, so I'm not sure. If you join up as a medical student, are you required to take MDSSP or is what I have described a plausible option!


    Thanks!!! If this doesn't make sense I can clarify...but boy am I confused.
  2. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California Moderator

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    When you are commissioned in the ARNG, you are obligated by default to an 8 year MSO (military service obligation) and 6 year active drilling status requirement, which are served concurrently. If you drill for six years, you can switch to IRR status for the final two years and not drill (though you can technically be called up from IRR, this very rarely happens and you essentially just wait for the clock to count down the final two years).

    If you join the ARNG when you start medical school and are awarded a medical student slot (be sure you are awarded a medical student slot), you will be in drilling status. This means, under Flexi-Training, you will only need to drill as little as every other month (which comes out to six weekends per year), but this is up to your commanding officer. I would clear this with whoever this person will be before you join.

    This does mean that you will be drilling 6 times per year. What this means varies by state and command. Some states you will spend it studying. Other states you will be doing actual work. It varies. Regardless, as you have no AOC and functionally can't do anything, most of your duties are administrative. Be sure you are prepared to potentially devote 6-12 weekends per year throughout medical school to this cause. It's usually not a problem, but it does require time management skills on your end to make it work and still do well academically. Also, you will have to attend two weeks of AT (annual training) at least once every other year. Some states are softer on this requirement as well.

    After medical school, you will owe 4 years MSO and 2 years active drilling status. Your first year as a resident, you functionally are a medical student, as you can not do anything medical until you receive your unrestricted medical license, which usually comes in some time in your PGY-2 year (depending on your program). After that, it can take 4-6 months for it to be recognized by the Army and to get privileges to practice in the Army. What you will then do depends on your specialty, but you may find yourself finishing your second year of residency without even having the ability to practice medicine in the Army and can switch to IRR, or continue to actually serve your last two years in drilling status.

    As to the idea of free medical school tuition, I would carefully check on this. Many states indicate that it's "free tuition" for current National Guard members, but when you read the fine print, that is true for the public school system and that for specialized programs with higher tuition (such as professional schools like medical or law school), it covers the equivalent tuition of the in-state undergrad tuition. I don't know about Connecticut, but I would get it in writing. If you are wrong, you will not have any recourse to leave.

    Make sure you want to join the Army. If you really don't like the thought of military service, joining is probably not a good idea. You lose a degree of independence (being told where to be even when it's not convenient, grooming standards, fitness standards, weight standards, drug testing, etc.) and you gain a level of responsibility that does not always equate to one weekend per month (I probably spend about 20-30 hours per month on National Guard tasks outside of drill because soldiers need the help and I'm a licensed doc who can provide). Also, the "free tuition" thing can be changed with the sweep of a pen and it is not going to be in any contract for you. Also, the Flexi-Training thing of 1 weekend every other month can also be changed. It was 1 weekend every 3 months when I first joined. It's now 1 weekend every other month, but I drilled 10 times last time due to the needs of my unit.

    Caveat emptor. A near universal is that the most unhappy people in the military are those who joined for the money.
  3. rollinstone23

    rollinstone23

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    But what does the Guard gain from this? I would essentially be useless for 5/6 years of my active drilling status because I won't even be licensed to practice medicine. Meanwhile, they are paying 120k for my tuition at my state public medical school? It just seems questionable.

    Another question, do you know if the Air National Guard has an MDSSP Program? My family has a history in the AF so I am more inclined to go that route.

    My last question is, are hospitals less inclined to hire an attending physician if they are Guard members due to the possibility of deployment/money lost for the hospital? What about residencies?
  4. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California Moderator

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    The Army isn't paying anything for your tuition. It's a program put on by the state education system. And again, I'd inquire to make sure that they're waiving a full $30-40K of med school tuition instead of just popping for whatever in-state undergrads pay in your state.

    You would be fundamentally useless, but again, it doesn't cost the Army anything. It's a bennie put out by the state to reward veterans and folks active in the Guard. I don't think they foresee a whole lot of medical students in the Guard taking advantage of this. Or some states did and restricted the tuition amounts they'll pop for.

    One thing the Army gains by your joining is that you're an officer-under-glass. In case of emergency, they can break the glass. The Army is not forbidden from pulling you out of medical school or residency by contract or law; they do not do so as a matter of policy. Technically, if things got really nasty, they could do exactly that. Break the glass. I wouldn't worry about that happening, as I don't know that it's ever happened and certainly didn't even when things were at a very heavy tempo during OIF/OEF, but if you're asking one benefit to your joining the Army, it's that the Army has one more body, and one with at least some medical training at that.
    Good luck with that. I know that the AF has almost no recruiting budget on the Guard side. They have very little in the way of benefits and advertising. I've tried to help people look into it and have had very little luck.

    Keep in mind that if you take MDSSP for 4 years in medical school, you will owe the Army 8 years of active drilling AFTER you finish your residency, right?
    This gets kicked around a lot. I haven't heard of too much negativity from fellow med students who interviewed for residency during their Guard days. It only came up once for me (and ironically, at the place I matched). I do know that Guard responsibilities are a lot more taxing for surgical specialites and the like, where getting two days off each month is a challenge and you have to be the "special case" every month. Also devoting two weeks each year can be a challenge. There is some negativity towards the military, but I think there's more positivity (a lot of the physicians at the top of academic medicine went through training during the Vietnam days and served). And they know you consistently pass drug tests, which is a plus.

    As for employment, I'm not there yet, but you will likely not be employable by very small or solo practices. You will need to join larger groups or else your deployments would be crippling to your group. Hope this helps...
  5. rollinstone23

    rollinstone23

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    Hi notdeadyet, thanks for all your help!! I really appreciate your commitment to serving and your commitment to helping those of us with questions on these forums. I have a few more questions now, because I have ultimately decided to attend school outside my home state (I will be going to a private school in Pennsylvania).

    I would really love to serve during medical school and beyond, but I am not keen on taking the MDSSP because I'm not entirely sure the incentives are worth it for the 8 year payback in incurs after residency, especially because I am considering a surgical specialty (good salaries, so my loans shouldn't be as large a burden as if I was entering primary care) and residency will likely take me ~6 years. That being said, I do want to serve during medical school and residency, just not the additional 8+ years after residency I would be bound to by taking incentives during med school that I don't think are THAT financially beneficial. I want to be able to make the decision on whether to continue serving after residency at that point (possibly HPLRP, etc etc), not be bound by taking the MDSSP now.

    I know you said this was possible before, but I'd like to clarify since previously I asked the question with the assumption I'd be attending my state's public medical school. So, my question is ultimately, is it possible to accept a commission as an officer in the ARNG as a medical student but not accept incentives. Also-can I join accept a commission as an MS1 but then later decide to take the MDSSP in MS3 or MS4? I just want to make sure I'm not missing a crucial piece of information about joining at the beginning of MS1 as a commissioned officer but not accepting incentives and still being non-deployable during medical school. I know medical students and residents are not deployable, but does not taking the incentives negate that and give them the option to deploy you any time they want as if you were an enlisted solder? I obviously would not be considering joining the ARNG if I was not prepared to deploy-I have had a genuine interest in serving for quite some time and I am not interested just for the money...I'm just trying to give myself the most possible options. Thank you so much again!
  6. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California Moderator

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    Agreed. 8 years of payback post-residency for four years of stipend and no tuition is not such a great deal. I'm not a big fan of MDSSP.
    I question how much you're "serving" during medical school (and internship, to a lesser degree) as you're not qualified to really do anything, but I get your point.

    Yes. If your recruiter and state decide to accept you. If I had my druthers, I'd be very hesitant to accept these folks. The reason is that as you sign as a medical student, you're obligating to 6 years. You will be covered by Flexi-Training, so you can drill as little as every other drill. Since you are not qualified to do anything and can not commit to a regular schedule, you have very little responsibility. You're pulling less weight for the unit than a ROTC cadet. During intern year, you are unlicensed, so you can't treat anyone. You will have one year in which you can function in a physician capacity (though non-deployable). It's not a great deal for the military.

    But I'm editorializing. Yes you can technically commission as a medical student without taking incentives. That's probably the smartest route, particularly if you go to a state that gives incentives to reserve corps military. If you like the military, you can stay in and take HPLRP after residency to help defray costs.
    Right now, yes, but they've been talking about changing this and stating that MDSSP and STRAP will only be commissioning incentives that you can't sign up for after you join. They didn't go down that route last I looked, but theoretically they could. I doubt it will happen though, since STRAP and MDSSP get you committed to a lot longer than your 6 year hitch when you commission.
    Currently, medical students are non-deployable. It doesn't have to do with incentives, it has to do with your coding as a medical student.

    I say currently because this is not contract, it's a policy (like flexi-training) and could technically change on the whims of the Army. That said, I very much doubt it. You are not qualified to do anything as a medical student (you have no training the military recognizes) so you wouldn't really have much use.
  7. DocWinter

    DocWinter In a van down by the river

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    notdead, I'm very glad I found your post.

    How difficult is tranferring states? I'm hoping to return to my home state for residency after medical school down south - how difficult is that switch?
    With this 8 year MSO, what are the monthly payments and how difficult is it to get into one of the medical student slots?

    I have an appt to talk to a local recruiter next week, but on the phone I get the idea he doesn't know much regarding medical school commitments and any sort of programs. Is there someone I should speak with who can better answer questions for a med student to be like myself?

    My thanks for your time and service
  8. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California Moderator

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    Not very. You need to just give them lots of lead time. And worst case scenario (I had a friend scramble into a match spot and didn't have much notice to give when he got into a residency across the country), states can let you SUTA while the interstate transfer goes through (a SUTA is where you drill in one place while getting paid by another).
    So the MSO is the obligation. With "monthly payments," I assume you're asking how much you get paid? It's been a while, but I think it was about $350/month after taxes for one weekend of drill.

    Medical student slots aren't hard to get, since there isn't a quota. If you're in medical school and want to join, most states will sign you up. The only hiccup can be if you're already in the military and MOS qualified in something else.
    Definitely. Call 1-800-Go-Guard. Ask for the number of your state's AMEDD Officer recruiter. Talking to anyone else is a waste of time. Literally, you will leave actually knowing less than when you came in. This isn't a knock on recruiters, it's just that AMEDD policies, training, and incentives are a unique animal.
  9. DocWinter

    DocWinter In a van down by the river

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    Thank you very much. How long have you been with the NG? If I may ask, how oold are you and how long have you been in the guard?
  10. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California Moderator

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    5 years. Old for still being a resident.
  11. Ginred

    Ginred

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    Hello @notdeadyet. I have found your post to be most informative and helpful. I have been enlisted in the national guard for nearly 6 years (I'm actually at AT right now) and I have a few questions.

    1) A recruiter told me (I know, that's a frightening intro. ;) ) that joining the guard for med school would require me to select my specialty before med school started as this helps them know which medical slot on the state they should assign me to for a unit. Supposing this to be accurate, I wonder if there is any flexibility about changing my residency route during medical school since I may have the crazy idea of actually changing my mind once I actually know something about medicine and its different specialties.

    2) This may seem a finish question, but is it easy to do a medical commissioning in a different state? If I'm accepted to an OOS school, would they state be pretty easy going with getting me into their guard as a direct commission?

    3) I'm planning on doing at least a full 20 years for the guard, but I'm strongly considering switching over to the Air Guard; I've been very impressed by the Air Force every time we've worked with them or used their facilities (our unit has done a lot of Joint Force work and our AT is actually at an air base right more.) Do you know much about the Air Force med program? I wonder if they provide direct commission medical slots for the Air Guard. I should mention that while I've been glad for the time I've put in service, my priorities are medicine first and guard second and not vice versa.

    Thanks in advance for your insight!
  12. pgg

    pgg Laugh at me, will they? Moderator

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    I don't know anything about the Guard, but I know that's ridiculous and untrue. It's just not possible for any pre-med recruiting system for any organization to work that way.
  13. TooMuchResearch

    TooMuchResearch i'm goin' to Kathmandu... Lifetime Donor

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    Agree. OP, the recruiter is incorrect. Are you sure you're working with the AMEDD recruiter? Most specialties in the ARNG, as far as I know, are used in 62B (field surgeon) slots, so your specialty isn't too important. A few specialties; rads, gas, and maybe path, possibly others; can't be used in 62B slots. Those soldiers transition to the reserves.

    I don't know much about the Air Guard.
    Ginred likes this.
  14. DeadCactus

    DeadCactus SDN Lifetime Donor Lifetime Donor

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    1. As others have addressed, that's nonsense. He or she may be confused with STRAP and HPLRP which are resident and attending level programs. For these, you will already have matched into a specialty and your specialty will affect your eligibility as they are aimed at the specialties most in need at any given time. Maybe they have a question on the application on what you think you want to do, but there is no obligation. It would be neither practical nor reasonable.

    2. I would guess they would simply finish your commissioning in your state and then do an interstate transfer to the new state. Easier and less delay than starting the whole process over. Either way, it'll get sorted out. The Guard won't stop you from accepting an OOS offer.

    3. Don't know much about Air Guard. They generally have an easier time keeping their billets full so they tend to offer less in the way of recruitment incentives.
    Ginred likes this.
  15. Ginred

    Ginred

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  16. pre-med444

    pre-med444

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    If you take mdssp and strap can you still qualify for the loan repayment (hplrp) and bonuses (special pay program)? Thanks. Basically in what way can I get the most incentives overall. I am not afraid of a large obligation. Could I do just strap and get hplrp + special pay after etc. What combinations works the best? Also, if I join regular guard during med school can I go into strap program no problem?
  17. TooMuchResearch

    TooMuchResearch i'm goin' to Kathmandu... Lifetime Donor

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    Dude. Stop posting this in every thread related to the ARNG.

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