Medical equipment has been a staple of military life since the dawn of warfare, but for years, many soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were reluctant to buy it.
Now, with the growing need for new medical gear, the Pentagon is looking to the medical community for ideas.
In December, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) issued a request for proposals to buy some 3,500 medical supplies, equipment and supplies.
“We want to build the capacity of our military so that we can do what needs to be done in the future,” said Maj. Col. David W. Johnson, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Military Sealift Command, the agency responsible for military medical equipment purchases.
In order to qualify for the program, military members and veterans need to have at least two years of service, be willing to accept and repay some or all of the costs of the purchase, and have a positive medical history.
For example, a member of the military who’s a military spouse or former spouse of an active duty service member who was deployed overseas and has a “high risk” medical condition, would need to be able to demonstrate that he or she has been taking prescribed medication for at least three years.
In addition, a veteran who was wounded while on active duty would need a medical certificate from the VA that indicates he or he was receiving “high priority care.”
The program is limited to items that are approved by the Department of Defense’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which oversees the medical equipment acquisition process.
The Pentagon has also put in place a system to weed out the top-heavy list of items that don’t meet the criteria, Johnson said.
The new system is in place for a year, so if a soldier’s request is rejected, they can appeal.
As of March 1, more than 6,700 items had been received, with more than 9,700 remaining in the queue for the approval process, according to a DLA press release.
The items that aren’t eligible for the military’s medical equipment program are military-owned and used vehicles, medical equipment for active duty and supplies of less than $1,000, according the release.
The military also has begun issuing guidance for its civilian employees on the process, such as how to properly handle a request from a spouse who’s deployed overseas.
The process has been so complex that it’s hard to gauge the number of people on the government’s payroll, said Paul S. Dever, an associate professor at New York University’s School of Law.
The process could take up to a year to approve.
Some veterans have been using their military credentials to seek the equipment.
One Army veteran, Lt.
Col William J. O’Neill, said he’s received two items since the end of the fiscal year.
He has spent more than $100,000 of his own money to purchase a variety of military medical supplies and is now using that money to buy his wife a new car.
He said he’ll also need to pay for the purchase of a motorcycle.
O’Neill said he had been thinking about getting his own personal medical supply until he heard about the DLA program.
He was hesitant to take on the expense because he’s not eligible for medical benefits, he said.
Older vets like O’Neil are more likely to be eligible for VA benefits because they’ve retired, and he said that’s a better incentive to make the purchase.
“They’re probably more likely [to qualify] if you’re younger and you’re getting your pension,” O’Reilly said.
“The older vets are more like, ‘What am I doing with this money?'”
O’Olellys father, Lt.-Col. Robert D. Oles, said.
“We are just trying to put some food on the table, if you know what I mean.”
The DLA’s Office for Special Counsel has a program called the Military Medical Care Provider Accessibility Program that helps veterans and their caregivers apply for medical care.
A doctor must be assigned to the patient’s care and meet the military medical requirements.DLA officials said they’re working with the medical device manufacturers to ensure that military members can use the medical supplies to treat their medical conditions.
They said the military is working to make sure the military has the latest and greatest equipment.
The DGA is the lead agency for the medical care program, but it also has its own program to purchase medical equipment, the Medical Equipment Acquisition Program (MEAP), which it oversees.DGLA officials have said that while the MEAP is still in its early stages, the program is already helping veterans access care and is improving their quality of life.
The program is also expanding the number and range of medical devices that can be purchased.