For the past year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been soliciting respiratory therapists (RTs) to volunteer in the event of a national disaster.

Only about 50 RTs have joined so far, but HHS would like to have around 200. More RTs would like to participate, but have hesitated because the program did not have the legal authority to require their employers to guarantee that their jobs would be waiting for them upon completion of the assignment.

The problem arose from the fact that the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), which includes this type of legal guarantee, had been housed in the Department of Homeland Security rather than in HHS.

Now the problem is solved with the transfer of NDMS back to HHS.
A letter from Rear Admiral W. Craig Vanderwagen, MD, states that the change in organization "would allow for job protection for the Respiratory Therapists during a deployment, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) benefits currently provided to NDMS team members."

HHS will continue its recruitment of RTs into the program.