U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) today introduced the Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017, which streamlines and eases the burden on the process whereby active-duty military, reservists and veterans apply for their commercial driver’s license. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) is also an original cosponsor of the legislation.
“We should be making it easier, not harder, for members of the armed forces to be gainfully employed both while they are in the reserves and after they complete their service,” said Sen. Cornyn. “The servicemen and women who have experience operating large military vehicles should be able to easily apply their skills and knowledge when seeking a commercial driver’s license, and this legislation allows for just that.”
“Veterans who have the training and experience to operate heavy trucks and buses under tough conditions in the military have the skills needed to drive trucks on our highways,” Sen. Warren said. “This bipartisan bill will remove legal obstacles delaying servicemembers from getting commercial drivers’ licenses. It’s a straightforward fix that will benefit veterans looking for good jobs and that will help employers looking for talented employees.”
“The brave men and women that serve in the U.S. military learn a wide-range of skills applicable to jobs once they enter the civilian workforce, but too often face unnecessary barriers that makes it harder for them to find jobs,” said Sen. Tillis. “This legislation will eliminate burdensome red tape so our active-duty military, reservists, and veterans can receive the DOT-required health examination and use the experience they gained serving our nation to count towards the credit needed to obtain a commercial driver’s license”
The latest surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, directed the Secretary of Transportation to establish a unique, streamlined set of standards for veterans applying for a CDL. The standards exempt veterans from all or a portion of civilian commercial vehicle driving tests if that veteran had experience driving similar vehicles while in the armed forces or reserves. Additionally, the standards allow veterans’ formal military training to count as credit towards the commercial motor vehicles minimum requirements to obtain a license.
However, the FAST Act did not include active-duty members of the military and reservists in their application of standards for veterans with previous training in military driving. To correct this, the Department of Transportation (USDOT) granted a two-year exemption allowing states to waive the commercial driver’s licenses knowledge test for current service members, reservists, and national guardsmen if they completed military heavy-training programs and had been regularly employed in a military position requiring the operation of heavy vehicles within the past year prior to their application.
The Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017 makes the USDOT’s two-year exemption permanent, providing active-duty service members and reservists the same training and testing standards granted to veterans under the FAST Act.
The Senators’ legislation also makes it easier for veterans to receive the DOT-required health examination to hold a commercial driver’s license. The FAST Act contained a provision requiring USDOT and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to collaborate and develop a streamlined and efficient process whereby VA physicians can join the National Registry for Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). USDOT requires that all CDL holders be examined by physicians certified by the NRCME. Currently, there is an extremely low number of physicians in the VA health system certified by the NRCME, forcing veterans to either travel exorbitant distances to see a CME or pay out of pocket for a non-VA medical professional. The Jobs for our Heroes Act of 2017 Act allows all qualified VA medical professionals, including advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, to use the same new process afforded to VA physicians.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees