Committee Approves Woodall Legislation to Expand Veteran Employment Opportunities
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has unanimously approved a bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Representatives Rob Woodall (R-GA-07) and Julia Brownley (D-CA-26) that would build upon current law that the two originally authored. The Veterans Expanded Trucking Opportunities (VETOPPS) Act, signed into law as part of the FAST Act in December of 2015, removed regulatory barriers for military veterans continuing or beginning work in the trucking industry. Specifically, Woodall’s 2015 provision required the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Veterans Administration (VA) to develop a streamlined process for VA physicians to join the National Registry for Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME), which FMCSA estimated will save VA doctors over $600 on average.
The DOT requires all commercial drivers to be examined by a health professional listed on the NRCME, and while there are more than 50,000 certified medical examiners (CME) nationwide, there were only 25 within the entire VA health system – a mere .0005%. This forced many veterans to look outside the VA for a medical professional eligible to perform the required physical, possibly having to pay out of pocket as well. The bill approved by the Transportation Committee today (H.R. 2547) would further increase veterans’ access, allowing all qualified VA medical professionals, including advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, to provide physical examinations for veterans using the new streamlined process.
“The original VETOPPS Act was a direct response to a bureaucratic problem standing in the way of our veterans being able to quickly return to work and support their families,” said Rep. Woodall. “I was proud to lead in the effort that resulted in a solution becoming the law of the land, but when we see ways to improve upon the ways we’re serving veterans even further, we absolutely want to seize that opportunity. That’s what H.R. 2547 is all about, and I’m grateful to Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio, Rep. Brownley, and my colleagues on this committee for their support.”
“Rep. Woodall’s leadership on this issue demonstrates his commitment to improving employment opportunities for our Nation’s veterans, and to effective, commonsense government,” Chairman Shuster said. “I commend him for his work on this legislation and in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s work to strengthen America’s infrastructure.”
“Increasing veterans’ access to jobs is vital and one of my top priorities,” said Rep. Brownley. “As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I constantly hear from industry about the need for new truck drivers, who are critical to moving goods and keeping our economy rolling. This bill will help address both these problems and I am pleased the Veterans Expanded Trucking Opportunities Act passed Committee. I look forward to working with my colleague, Mr. Woodall, to further advance the bill and get it to the President’s desk.”
The High Points:
- The original Veterans Expanded Trucking Opportunities (VETOPPS) Act, brought together safety regulators, the VA, truck drivers, and veterans service organizations to craft a solution supported by both sides of the political aisle and was among the many positive reforms included in the Fast Act signed by the President in 2015.
- The DOT and the VA are now working together to implement the program so that VA physicians can become certified to conduct these DOT physicals without excessive financial and travel requirements.
- FMCSA estimates this will save each physician over $600, not to mention the time and money saved by each veteran driver.
- The follow-up bill approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week would allow additional medical professionals in the VA system, such as advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, who are qualified for listing on the National Registry to use this new online training course within the VA system.
- Only 33% of certified medical examiners are medical doctors, so opening this program up to the other 67% of qualified medical professionals within the VA system will increase access and reduce wait times for veterans.
- Those supporting the measure include the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the American Academy of Physicians Assistants, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and the American Legion.
“This legislation takes an important step to reduce the regulatory barriers facing veterans in the trucking industry, and the strong bipartisan backing behind this bill is evidence that better serving our nation’s veterans is a goal we can all support,” The American Legion said in a statement. “We join Representatives Woodall and Brownley and others in calling for the prompt consideration of this much-needed reform by the full House of Representatives.”
The next stop for the legislation is the House floor where the likelihood of broad support remains high.
Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee.