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Brian Mast, Tulsi Gabbard call for answers on military downsizing

To cut so many healthcare professionals runs the risk of compromising our troops’ health and well-being, readiness and operational capacity

On May 22, U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Tulsi Gabbard led a bipartisan effort expressing concern over the elimination of more than 17,000 military medical personnel by October 1.

The pair penned a letter sent to the Department of Defense, where they described the move to decrease skilled medical professionals in the active duty military force as having “serious medical and mission implications for both active duty personnel and their beneficiaries.

It is estimated Florida’s 21 military bases are home to more than 80,000 active duty members, according to Florida Trend Magazine. It’s unclear how many local servicemen and servicewomen will be affected.

Mast, of Florida’s 18th Congressional District, said in a recent news release: “I’ve always said that we need to do more for the men and women who put on the uniform for our country. Potentially eliminating 17,000 military healthcare professionals does the exact opposite.”

In addition to Mast and Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, the letter drew support from 20 more members of Congress across party lines and state boundaries.

The personnel cut is expected to impact skilled active duty military professionals in roles like general medicine, as well as specializations like psychology and social work. The document summarizes two main concerns of the command.

First, the remaining medical staff will not possess the bandwidth for sustained support to planned military operations and crisis relief.

Second, psychologists and social workers who understand the culture of the active military are vital to the well-being of service members and their families.

Together, the 22 members of Congress probed the decision-making process of Department of Defense officials by requesting an explanation for the order to eliminate such important positions.

Gabbard, a Democratic presidential hopeful in the upcoming primary for the 2020 election, said:

“Making sure they [active duty military personnel] get the healthcare they need is essential. To cut so many healthcare professionals runs the risk of compromising our troops’ health and well-being, readiness and operational capacity. It could disproportionately impact rural and underserved areas where we already face a shortage of medical professionals and specialists. In light of these concerns, we need answers.”

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