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Civilian Doctor Contract Question

Discussion in 'Military Medicine' started by spiveydog, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. spiveydog

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    I have a question regarding a pending contract with the Air Force. I am a Family Physician and I just completed my active duty service commitment this month. My future plans include starting a new job out of state in July. My fiancé is also finishing up her residency training (civilian) at the same time. As a result, I needed temporary work for the next 4 months. My chain of command offered my a GS civilian position for this time. Apparently, the squadron was given Global War on Terrorism money to hire civilians on one year contracts to help combat the loss of physicians due to deployments. They have had these spots go unfilled in the past and figured that they could at least get 4 months out of me. My flight commander told me that this was a "GS position with all of the benefits"--malpractice, life/health insurance, decent vacation, etc. I was told my salary would be equivalent to a recently hired permanent GS doc. For me, this was a no brainer. I would not have to search for a temporary job (my short search yielded few takers for four months unless I wanted to do Locums), I knew the system (as disjointed and frustrating as it is), and my salary would increase substantially.

    So, over the past two plus months (started the process around the holidays) I waited as the bureaucracy processed my application for my anticipated start date of this week. I still hadn't gotten the word of my "official hire" until late last week. I spoke briefly to a civilian personnel liaison who said I would have to come in tomorrow and sign the paperwork so I would be "good to go" to start work. Here's the rub--In our conversation over the phone last week he mentioned that since my position is temporary (1 yr contract), I would not be eligible for life or health insurance and my leave would be 4 hrs per pay period (1 day per month).

    I am frustrated since it is the typical BS that happened when I was on AD.1.My flight commander obviously was wrong about the ins/outs of my contract. 2. The application/hiring process was long and drawn out and lasted until the last possible moment. 3. I still do not know what my contract says since I have not seen one. 4. My Flight commander expects that I will sign the contract tomorrow and start seeing patients on Wednesday....ugh!

    My questions for the group:

    1. Is this sort of process typical for a government contract (not seeing a contract until shortly before my start date) ?

    2. What (if any) negotiating power do I have? For example, can I negotiate a higher salary since I am not getting "all of the benefits" I was originally led to believe I would get? Can I negotiate more leave time/less patients per day/limited call? Who would I negotiate with?

    In the real world I know that contracts are negotiated and tweaked before they are signed. You get a lawyer to look over the contract, etc. I know my position is only temporary but I still want to get the best deal for me. Instead, I feel like I am getting pushed into starting a job this week which I still have a lot of questions about. Any advice would help.
     
  2. resxn

    10+ Year Member

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    1 - yes this is typical. The ENT they're trying to hire at my base is supposed to start in 4 days and has yet to see the contract.

    2 - from what I've heard, you can try to negotiate all you want, but you won't be able to increase the funding for your position (that is mandated by DoD). However, you can negotiate how much the contractors take for your position. From what I understand, let's suppose the DoD sets aside $150K for your salary, but you're going to get paid $130K, that means the contractor (Terra Health, Spectrum, or whoever) is taking $20K off the top. A peds civilian was losing $35K to her contractor at our base. You can probably negotiate this much, but it will be real hard for you to find out how much they're keeping for themselves. They may simply say no.

    You definitely won't be able to negotiate the terms of the contract from what I understand. The legal office refuses to increase leave and other incentive options. That's all hearsay, however.

    And don't forget, they can fire you without notice at any time in the first 90 days. That happened to a CRNA in our OR who had been on board for about 8 weeks. They let him go and the reason why is that they found another CRNA willing to work for a mere $7.5K less a year.
     
  3. megadon

    5+ Year Member

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    I have somewhat similar experience. Before I went to med school, I was a navy submarine officer. In pursuing med school, I had to resign my commission and work as a contactor for 18 months.
    First off, are you a GS or a contactor? GS's are extremely difficult to fire. Contactors not so much. As a contractor you do the dance every time your period of work is up. Generally the contract is written for one year, hopefully this does not coincide withing six months of the military fiscal year (October) because a budget won't be passed and your contract won't be able to extended. This royally sucks, and hopefully your company is diverse enough to take part in the unscrupolous act of you billing another contract until you new one is in place. Unethical, yeah, but it happens with everyone. Also, that joker who didn't get your contract renewed is part of that 150k a year deal, that is why you don't see 150k. My bottom line in contracting (from the goverment side) allocate 200k for every 100k you want the worker to see. This is the military industrial complex, its real, its huge.
    The plus side, you really can negotiate your working hours. Your company (if not GS) really does have working hours, and they don't want to pay overtime. I mean they really don't want to pay it, so if you are contracted to work 45 hours, that's it man. This sucks for the guys wearing the uniform, but you are now a civilian right? Hate to say it, but you have to hold the line on this one, otherwise the military will outsource medicine until it is beyond broken.
    Hey, if you were lucky to truly be a GS (government service), no worries. It is so incredibally difficult to fire a GS no one does it. Plus you are guaranteed working hours. If you think it is difficult to ask for overtime as a contractor, ask for it as a GS. You also don't have the headache of a contract, unless the government comes to a stop like back in 95.
     
  4. IgD

    IgD The Lorax
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    I suspect that the position is a contractor position (not a GS position) which means no benefits.
     
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  5. OP
    OP
    spiveydog

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    The position is actually a temporary GS position. (one year with GWOT $$) The contract positions were recently converted to GS positions at my base (? AF wide). They sold it to me as being "better" than a contract position since I would be eligible for "all of the benefits" (according to my flight commander) that GS workers get. I started work yesterday with a civilian in processing thinking that I would see a contract and was told there "really isn't a contract" in this warped system. Instead I sat in an office with 15 other civilian employees and filled out W4's and watched movies about how a military base works. I questioned the contract guy and was told "your people at the hospital should have gone over the details of your contract and benefits for you". But over the past month I was told by hospital leadership that "The contract people will explain the contract and answer your questions". I got a call last week saying that "everything went through" and that I was hired. I expected this to be the time when I saw a contract. Nope. Nothing was ever fully explained nor did I see anything in writing. Typical poor communication....Now I have put in a request to speak with the hospital commander to discuss increasing my salary to make up for screw up. Meanwhile, I have to get life, health, and disability insurance. Bottom line is that I agreed to the job 6 weeks ago with the an understanding of my salary and benefits only to have my benefits swiped from the day I started. All along, my requests for a contract or explanation of my job description, benefits, etc went unmet. Could you imagine a civilian practice trying to sign a doctor without providing a contract or explanation of benefits??? It is a very frustrating experience. Why does the military/government do things so differently than the rest of the world?
     
  6. resxn

    10+ Year Member

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    Your situation bites, and I totally understand your anger. It's true the GS position is "theoretically" better than a contract position.

    However, to answer that question above, it's pretty easy: Because they get away with it.

    Despite the obvious lack of professionalism accorded to you, you are still working for them. They still have the warm body they want/need. You upheld the spirit of the supposed contract, whereas they did not. You are honoring your verbal agreement, they are not.

    And that's the whole point of HPSP. They promise the world and deliver Bldg 18 at WRMC. As long as there are patriotic young men and women who want to serve, the military medical system will continue to piddle along barely surviving.

    It's when people like you and me, who they get by the gonads, just say that it's not worth the frustration and either never sign, or walk away when the promises aren't kept--that's when the system will finally fold.

    It takes a building 18 and media attention to get things changed. Supporting a system that doesn't provide any support in return only allows them to continue getting away with these atrocities.
     

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