Earning Additional Income through Military Service

October 05, 2010

My father retired from the army after 23 years of active duty service, so I acknowledge that I may have some bias with regard to this topic based on my experiences growing up.

There are many reasons to serve in the U.S. military. As physicians, we have the opportunity to serve in a special capacity, taking care of those that serve to protect the freedoms we enjoy. The military is always in need of physicians, and therefore they offer attractive incentives.

This post is specifically about the army, because that is what I know the most about. For a while I have been looking at the options to serve in the military as a urologist, and I am currently in the application process to be a urologist in the U.S. Army reserves. All of the branches of the service (Army, Air Force, and Navy) have similar incentive programs because they all come out of the Department of Defense. The real differences are in the capacities and locations that you may serve as a urologist (e.g. in the Navy, you may be on a ship).

2 Different Roles: Active Duty and Reserves

In Active Duty, you commission as an officer and serve your commitment by working full time at an army installation as a urologist. Essentially, for every year of stipend you receive while in training, you pay back one year of active duty service after you complete your training.

Financial Assistance Program (FAP) is for those who want to go active duty after residency. This consists of an annual grant of more than $45,000 and a stipend of about $2,000/month.

Also, there is an Active Duty Health Professionals Loan Repayment program that is up to $120,000. (This may have been increased.)

More information on active duty benefits

In the Army Reserves, you commission as an officer and serve your commitment as an officer. You can still choose to work wherever you'd like (e.g. in private/group practice, academic setting, etc). You pay your commitment back with one weekend a month and two weeks per year.

So how much money are we talking about? Back in May of this year, the government really upped the ante and raised the loan repayment incentive to $250,000. This is called the Health Professional Loan Repayment (HPLR) Program.

The loan repayment incentive can be taken in addition to the Specialized Training Assistance Program (STRAP), a stipend that is paid to residents, currently at $2,060/month. Additionally, you would qualify for Annual Training Pay, which pays for 16 hours of overtime for every week that you work more than 40 hrs (which is assumed to be every week). All in all, the stipend comes out to over $2,300/month. The repayment is 12 months in the reserves for every 6 months of stipend you take; sort of 2 for 1.

More details about being a doc in the reserves

Again, I know more about the reserve application process because that is what I'm currently going through. The process starts with a 5-10 minute phone interview with a recruiter, then a paper application. You submit names and addresses of references and ask for a few letters of reference from colleagues. Once they have your application, they fly you to San Antonio for a medical physical exam where they check your hearing, vision, blood work, and an exam by a PA or physician. I did this recently when I was already in San Antonio for vacation. The exam went from ~0600-1100. So, you could get back on a plane that afternoon to get back home that same day.

Additional Links

I recognize the info above may be of use or interest to only a small contingent, and maybe it piqued your interest. If you have any questions about anything I mentioned above, feel free to email me.

In subsequent posts, I will explore other options available for residents/fellows to augment their incomes, such as hospital stipends.

Also, if there is another topic of interest that you would like me to talk about, please let me know.

Ian Thompson ian@urologyjobsearch.com

Disclaimer: I am in no way a recruiter and the above information is based on what I've read on the official army and army reserve websites and may not be completely accurate or up to date. If you are interested in learning more, you can click through on one of the respective sites to contact a recruiter or I can give you the name and number for the recruiter with whom I've been working.