By Jack Dusik
The U.S. House of Representatives on June 26 overwhelmingly approved the “Veterans Expanded Trucking Opportunities Act of 2017” (H.R. 2547), sponsored by Reps. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.). The bipartisan bill aims to ease the transition of military personnel seeking commercial driver's licenses by increasing the number of health professionals―including chiropractors―serving at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities who are eligible to conduct physicals for truck drivers.
Current Law Limits Exams to MDs and DOs
Previously passed legislation, the “Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (or FAST Act; P.L. 114-94)”, unnecessarily limits VA medical doctors (MDs) and doctors of osteopathy (DOs) to the process of performing physical exams on veterans and issuing medical certificates required by the Department of Transportation (DOT) for commercial drivers.
While there are more than 50,000 health professionals listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME), only 33% of certified medical examiners are medical doctors. Notably, within the entire VA health system, only 25 MDs (a mere .0005%) were qualified to perform the DOT exams. Excluding the remaining 67% of NRCME providers, including more than 3,500 chiropractors, out of the program not only limited access and increased wait times but also forced veterans to look outside the VA and pay high out-of-pocket costs for eligible health professionals to perform the required physical.
ACA’s concern peaked in December 2016, when FMCSA issued the proposed rule to implement the current program excluding chiropractors. In response, the rule received 173 comments, including those of the ACA and numerous chiropractors, arguing that DCs, as eligible NRCME examiners, should be included.
New Bill Corrects Inequity
Seeking to correct the inequity and increase efficiency of the program, H.R. 2547 expands eligibility for the alternative process under the FAST Act to all VA health professionals, including chiropractors, provided they are authorized by the state in which they are licensed, certified or registered to perform physical examinations. This ensures the VA list of eligible health professionals matches that of the FMSCA.
This sensible expansion allows chiropractors serving in the VA to participate in the joint DOT-VA online program. When implemented, this program will enable DCs to become certified to conduct DOT physicals without excessive financial and travel requirements. FMCSA estimates this will save each provider more than $600, not to mention the time and money saved by each veteran driver.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) recently introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate, signaling this broadly supported bipartisan, bicameral legislation will likely become law in the 115th Congress.
Jack Dusik is senior director of federal government relations at the American Chiropractic Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.