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Surgeon General increasing lethality at AFRC wings

Wing commanders testing new medical waiver authority

Senior Master Sgt. Esteban Lopez, 310th Aerospace Medicine Flight, administers the flu shot to Staff Sgt. Monica Arana, 310th Force Support Squadron, at the 310th Space Wing’s commander’s call Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. Photo credit: Senior Airman Laura Turner

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The Surgeon General's Office of the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is revitalizing the medical waiver adjudication process from the top down.

The office recently tested a new process where wing commanders have the authority to allow members to continue serving, in a full or limited range, while his or her waiver is being adjudicated at headquarters. The commander will review the member's records and make the decision in conjunction with a local medical provider's recommendation.

"This came about in two ways. The first was the Air Force Chief of Staff General Goldfein's squadron revitalization initiative which gives commanders the ability to better take care of their airmen," said Col. John Buterbaugh, AFRC Command Surgeon. "The other part is readiness. Our squadron commanders need to be able to use their members effectively so we can remain a lethal force."

Six wings in different numbered air forces and mission sets were targeted for the beta test process. The 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado was one of those units.

"The process has expedited airmen participation, decreased essential manpower losses, and built stronger relationship between the medical community and our airmen," said Col. Jim DeVere, 302nd AW commander.

Previously, servicemembers would be put on a no-pay, no-points status when a waiver was submitted forward to SG. This meant the member could not get paid nor receive retirement points while they waited for adjudication. The commander's hands were tied during the process and he or she would lose those airmen until the process was complete. This could take weeks or years.

The new participation process at the wings was developed as part of a major overhaul being conducted in the Surgeon General's Office.

"Our leadership noticed that there was a significant readiness issue within SG so they brought in a fresh team to take a look at what was going on," said Buterbaugh. "What we discovered was there were inherent inefficiencies in the process and there was inadequate staffing at the SG to take down the backlog."

While they were overhauling on the headquarters staff, SG leadership realized there was more that could be done at the local level to maintain unit lethality.

The tests are being completed and evaluated and will be discussed by AFRC leadership as to whether the process should be rolled out command-wide or if more information is needed.

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