Two state representatives are asking U.S. Sen. Jon Tester to help patch a loophole in federal law that puts Montana veterans needing a medical exam to renew their commercial driver’s license at a disadvantage.

Reps. Ed Lieser and Andrew Person, Democrats representing Whitefish and Missoula, respectively, said Montana veterans with a CDL are losing their jobs or suffering long renewal delays because the VA Montana Health Care System doesn’t have any certified medical examiners.

New federal regulations require CDL drivers to get their medical exam from a certified examiner.

“Montana veterans with a CDL are either losing their jobs or at least suffering significant delays in certification or extended periods of unemployment, because there are no certified examiners in the VA system,” Lieser said.

Tester co-authored legislation in 2011 that led to the Hire Heroes Act. Among other things, the law helped ease the transition of service members by converting their military experience to civilian work, such as military truck driving to commercial truck driving.

At issue, Tester said, are new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that require CDL holders to provide a copy of their medical exam certificate when receiving or renewing their license.

The exam must be conducted by a certified examiner listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. An examiner must take a training course and pass a federal exam to be listed on the registry.

The Montana VA has no such examiners, Lieser and Person said, and getting certified could take months. Tester has asked VA Secretary Robert McDonald to correct the oversight.

“This places Montana veterans at a severe disadvantage when applying for positions requiring a CDL,” Tester wrote McDonald. “This issue could be resolved by permitting medical providers at the VA to become certified medical examiners. The cost to have a VA medical professional trained, tested and certified would be minimal.”

As it now stands, when a Montana veteran wants a Department of Transportation certification, they have to get a medical exam outside the VA system, Lieser and Person said.

“It often takes months for the certified medical examiner, outside the VA system, to get the necessary medical records and clearance from specialists to certify the veteran driver,” they told Tester. “While the examiner waits for this information, the veteran is not certified and cannot be employed.”

The wait, they said, has cost some Montana veterans their jobs.

Scott Palmer, president of Sammons Trucking in Missoula, supports the proposal.

“We’d be very in favor of the VA taking the time and putting forth the effort of taking care of this,” Palmer said Tuesday. “We’d love to see veterans have that benefit provided to them by the VA. There are millions of commercial drivers out there who are veterans.” 

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