House Overwhelmingly Approves Woodall Legislation to Expand Veteran Employment Opportunities
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill (H.R. 2547) introduced by U.S. Representatives Rob Woodall (R-GA-07) and Julia Brownley (D-CA-26) by a vote of 409-0 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 passed by the House today further increases 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.
“Things are getting done in Washington on a variety of fronts, but none make me more proud than what we’re achieving across the aisle for our veterans,” said Rep. Woodall. “Just last week we saw the Veterans Accountability Act signed into law following enormous bipartisan support, and now this much more targeted measure to help our veterans quickly return to work has moved that much closer to becoming law as well. I’m proud to lead in this effort, and I’m grateful to Chairman Shuster, Rep. Brownley, and all my House colleagues 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.”
“We need to do more to ensure our veterans are able to successfully transition back to the civilian workforce and support their families when they come home,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “This bill helps fulfill the trucking industry’s need for skilled, capable drivers by removing bureaucratic barriers for our veterans who are qualified and ready to enter this field of work. I am pleased to see this bill advance to the Senate, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this 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.
Last week, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced companion legislation to H.R. 2547 in the United States Senate. The measure has received broad, bipartisan and bicameral support to this point, and is expected to advance further following House passage today.
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.