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NSIPS enhancements help Navy's aspiring healthcare professionals receive faster, more accurate financial benefits.

Thanks to new functionality in the Navy's largest pay and personnel system, medical, dental, optometry, physician assistant, podiatry and nursing students are receiving faster, more accurate reimbursements and tuition payments as part of their Navy scholarship benefits. In addition, the new functionality has boosted the efficiency of participant tracking and communication for managers of the scholarship programs.

Enhancements to the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System (NSIPS) have provided the Navy Medicine Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education (NAVMED MPT&E) Medical Accessions Department (NMAD) with efficient tools to manage personnel, tuition payments, reimbursements, incentive payments, logistics and training data for more than 1,700 Navy Reservists enrolled in its Health Professions Incentives Programs (HPIP).

Another improvement is the Navy's ability to report core strength and demographic data required by Congress for the military's Medical Accessions programs.

Personnel with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic New Orleans Office, which provides a complete range of life cycle support, engineering, and maintenance services for NSIPS, deployed the functionality in June 2008 in response to NMAD's requirement for a more efficient and accurate system to manage HPIP data and to administer the $100 million doled out annually in stipends, bonuses, tuition payments, reimbursements, and active duty annual training pay and entitlements.

Also required was a system that could interface with multiple Reserve and active duty systems to initiate, pay and track appropriate entitlements.

The goal of the development effort, said Edura Baham, SSC Atlantic's NSIPS project director, was to provide a standardized and integrated field-level data collection system for entering and tracking HPIP data for Navy personnel, leveraging the existing data, hardware and network infrastructure of NSIPS, which is based on PeopleSoft commercial software and an Oracle database.

"Minimum customization kept development costs in check," said Baham, who was the NSIPS deputy program manager during HPIP development.

The new component of NSIPS provides a Web-based system that is the single point of entry for information pertaining to HPIP-related pay and personnel data by support staff at the NAVMED MPT&E in Bethesda, Md.

With the critical first-year milestone now past, the system is receiving high marks from the staff who work with students and universities as they administer the scholarship programs.

Dr. Sandra Yerkes, NAVMED Accessions program manager, also gives the system a thumbs up. "The systems engineers who worked with us were exceptionally receptive to our needs and ideas for improved connectivity with existing Reserve and financial data systems, as well as with the individual scholarship participants," Yerkes said. "The new NSIPS modules and functionalities have significantly enhanced our tracking and communication abilities."

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The new NSIPS functionality replaced a legacy system that lacked the modern, robust features needed to support NMAD staff and HPIP participants.

Initially developed and deployed in 1996 by the former SSC New Orleans, the Reserve Standard Training, Administration and Readiness Support - Health Professions (RSTARS-HP) application was a successful PC-based application that authorized payment for stipends, bonuses, reimbursements and annual training entitlements for qualified Navy health professional students.

Prior to the deployment of RSTARS-HP, the application process was manual and took up to six weeks. RSTARS-HP allowed staff to enter payment data, which was uploaded to the Reserve Headquarters Support (RHS) system and then processed through an interface to the Defense Joint Military Pay System-Reserve Component (DJMS-RC), the system used by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to issue payments.

As technology changed, RSTARS-HP became more costly to maintain and would have required significant investments to upgrade operating systems, databases and hardware, and to comply with new security mandates and pay for scholarship benefit expansion.

In 2007, NAVMED MPT&E received permission and funding to migrate the legacy system's functionality to NSIPS, a logical choice since the system contains many functions that RSTARS-HP users required, including the ability to process personnel gains and losses, enter personnel data and record annual training.

"NSIPS was a feasible migration path forward as it provided the flexibility to add the existing RSTARS-HP functionality while leveraging its existing interfaces with personnel and pay-related systems and the ability to add new ones," said Catherine Folse, former NSIPS HPIP project manager, who spearheaded development.

NSIPS already interfaced with DJMS-RC, eliminating the need to route pay-related transactions through RHS, although the interface required some modification.

Only two new interfaces were needed. One interface was with the Inactive Manpower and Personnel Management Information System (IMAPMIS), needed for personnel-related transactions. IMAPMIS maintains personnel master records for members of the Selected Reserve (SEL-RES), Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), Standby Reserve, and all retired U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserve personnel. The system also supports IRR mobilization and personnel data reporting.

Also required was an interface with the Navy Reserve Order Writing System (NROWS) to ensure timely issuance of annual training payments to HPIP participants.

Despite some challenges, including conversion of data not resident in the legacy system and configuration of data to align with the NSIPS drop-down menu structure, the NSIPS team completed the development and migration project in only nine months, meeting the customer's requirements on time and within budget.

"NSIPS provided the HPIP staff with a comprehensive system to receive timely and accurate personnel and pay-related data to not only manage HPIP personnel but to report on them using the robust ad hoc reporting capability inherent to NSIPS," Folse said.

Baham credits Folse and her team's close coordination and partnership with the customer as a major factor in the successful delivery. "We viewed this project totally from the customer's perspective and really worked hard to listen and understand their requirements and maintain regular communication," Baham said.

The HPIP component of NSIPS has vastly improved data reliability and accuracy, as well as the accuracy and speed of payments. Previously, numerous manual transactions were required in the HPIP payment process, which frequently caused errors that delayed or generated incorrect deposits to bank accounts.

Now, it is entirely possible for students to begin receiving payments within a few days of their gain in the system, said Lt. Elijah Sanders, current NSIPS HPIP project manager.

In addition, NMAD staff have complete visibility of student data, university information and tuition payments, and can track and run reports on all types of financial data, including reimbursable expenses for items such as stethoscopes, lab coats and goggles.

Business intelligence tools embedded in the analytics portion of NSIPS will provide trend analysis and other forward-leaning capabilities to NMAD staff in the future, Baham added.

Programs supported under the HPIP umbrella include the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), Navy Active Duty Delay for Specialists (NADDS), the Financial Assistance Program (FAP) and Nurse Candidate Program (NCP).

Qualified applicants are recruited, appointed and remunerated in exchange for an active duty obligation after graduation, ensuring the availability of appropriately trained health professionals to meet Navy Medicine's mission-essential requirements.

HPSP is an IRR program created to obtain adequate numbers of commissioned officers on active duty who are qualified in the various health professions. The program is the primary source for the Navy's core medical pool, supplying 80 percent of physicians and 75 percent of dentists.

HPSP provides full tuition, stipend and equipment, and book reimbursement to students pursuing training or doctoral degrees in medicine, dentistry, osteopathy, podiatry and optometry, or master's degrees as physician assistants. Each student is also entitled to 45 days of annual training for each year of scholarship.

In return for the scholarship benefit, students fulfill a minimum three-year commitment as active duty medical, dental or Medical Service Corps officers.

NADDS supports former HPSP students who have been granted a delay in going on active duty to complete residency training.

The FAP is an IRR program for physicians and dentists currently accepted to or enrolled in an accredited residency or fellowship program progressing toward a degree in a specialty designated as critical to the Department of Defense.

FAP participants receive a monthly stipend, yearly grant, paid tuition and supplies, in addition to 14 days of annual training per year. In exchange, FAP participants agree to serve on active duty for a set number of years with a minimum two years as active duty Medical or Dental Corps officers.

The Nurse Candidate Program provides financial assistance to students who are within 24 months of completing an accredited baccalaureate degree in nursing. Students receive monthly stipends and a signing bonus. After graduation, NCP participants join the Navy Nurse Corps as officers and must complete an active duty service obligation.

These healthcare education incentive programs currently serve participants enrolled in more than 160 institutions scattered across the United States and Puerto Rico. Most participants have no prior naval service and are enrolled in private healthcare education institutions.

The Navy Health Professions Incentives Programs offer attractive incentives, including sign-on bonuses, to help with the extremely high costs of medical education, enabling students to leave school with minimal debt.

SSC Atlantic New Orleans Office provides various products and services for NSIPS and its HPIP modules as the technical agent for the PMW 240 Sea Warrior program, a component of the Naval Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS).

Support includes software development and sustainment; systems engineering; project management; risk management; installation support; software changes; and customer support center and help desk services.

For more information about Navy Medicine, go to www.med.navy.mil.

Deborah Gonzales provides contractor support to the SSC Atlantic New Orleans Office.
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Author:Gonzales, Deborah
Publication:CHIPS
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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