NMRTU Everett, Washington –
Immigration Physicals an exam away at NMRTU Everett
By Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer -- When Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jasmin Damian was growing up, she witnessed first-hand how difficult it was for an immigrant to obtain citizenship in the U.S.
She vividly remembers her mother dealing with a host of documentation required for their family with three children coming from the Philippines.
That past personal experience surfaced in a present professional way for Damian, assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness Training Unit Everett as Medical Home Port clinical manager, when another corpsman assisting a family of three asked her for support in setting up an immigration physical.
Neither of them had any knowledge. Nor did anyone she asked know precisely just what a immigration physical actually was.
Undeterred, Damian put service before self to do all she could in providing assistance for the requesting family.
Her persistent efforts on behalf of those in need paid off and lead her to craft a standard operating procedure to help guide – and streamline - the process of providing immigration physicals.
“Developing the SOP for conducting immigration physicals has been successful in getting them completed. She would like to expand to other clinics/hospitals. The first step is to show what kind of impact this can make. Some low income families are having to travel hours to get this care, or worse by going outside military medicine and spending thousands. We can eliminate a lot of financial burden by expanding this process,” said NMRTC Bremerton Command Master Chief James B. May.
“I believe that all MTFs should offer this to beneficiaries. Since no insurance covers the evaluation, the expenses to cover all necessary lab, x-ray or other tests can become quite costly,” echoed Damian.
Damian took on the task of defining the actual exam and clarifying all the parameters involved.
“An immigration physical is an integral part of the entire process required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to establish applicants seeking immigration benefits and is not inadmissible to the United States public health,” explained Damian, stressing the immigration physical is unlike any other physical which an eligible beneficiary can request at any military treatment facility.
“The form I-693 - Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record from USCIS - must be completed in full adherence to the USCIS guidelines,” added Damian, also noting that the physical must be done by an authorized USCIS civil surgeon.
There is also a costly caveat to the process. The immigration physical is a medical evaluation that is not covered by any medical insurance, which means paying for the process falls upon the applicant.
Yet according to Damian, eligible beneficiaries completing their medical exams with a military MTF are able to have these physical screening completed and covered by TRICARE.
“Military physicians are authorized to perform immigration medical exams at a military treatment facility within the United States for U.S. veterans, members of the U.S. military and designated dependents,” quoted Damian from the USCIS website.
By her estimate, the nearest community health care facility from their clinic on Naval Station Everett which could provide an immigration physical ranges in cost from approximately $500 for adults and $300 for children, just for the initial visit.
“When I called to ask for a price quote, the clinics were kind enough to remind me that it's not a service covered by insurances. The initial $500 will only cover the face to face visit with the physician and their signature. It does not include requirements such as lab tests, vaccinations and chest x-ray,” Damian said.
By her calculations, by offering immigration physicals to eligible beneficiaries interested in becoming U.S. citizens – it can save them up to $2,431, not including travel costs.
Along with the financial considerations, providing the exam also helps with the cumbersome bureaucratic part of the process which Damian knows well.
“I was once an immigrant myself. I saw how stressful it was for my mother dealing with so many immigration documentations for her three children. I remember the two filing cabinets in my mother's room and the stacks of manila folders on our kitchen table. I understand how mentally taxing this can be on a family. I've experienced it. It is awful to be alone in this long and tedious process of immigration. But she knew that citizenship is the first step to the American dream,” shared Damian.
Once Damian found out it was acceptable to have the exam done at any MTF with any credentialed physician, she presented the idea to NMRTU Everett senior medical officer, who was more than willing to help by scheduling and conducting the exam.
NMRTU Everett has helped 10 eligible beneficiaries so far, but it has been a challenge at times.
“Those who would benefit most from this screening process are often not fluent in English. But we have translation services we can utilize, if needed. Constant communication with the applicants to ensure accurate information are submitted is a time consuming process to get them to their goal of becoming a U.S. citizen,” Damian said.
According to the USCIS, members of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to apply for United States citizenship under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. There are certain requirements such as the service member has to be in good standing and serving honorably on active duty. Other qualifications to become a citizen of the United States includes knowledge of the English language; Knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics); and taking the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution to show attachment to the United States.
It also takes a lot of work and effort, on behalf of those seeking their citizenship, as well as those providing assistance along the way.
“The appreciation from beneficiary applicants gives a new meaning to be a hospital corpsman for me. It brings me great joy to be able to help families establish themselves in the United States of America as brand new citizens,” said Damian.