Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.) proposed legislation to clear the way for combat medics to enter the medical profession on Wednesday.
Cassidy, a medical doctor, said that returning veterans are needlessly forced to clear bureaucratic hurdles to become licensed in roles such as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). A medic entrusted with the lives of Americans overseas has proved that he is capable of caring for Americans at home, according to Cassidy.
"Veterans trained as emergency medical technicians in the service should not have to repeat the training that they've already had," Cassidy said in a statement.
Representatives from veterans’ groups said that public policy should be directed at putting veterans to work as soon as possible.
"It’s ridiculous that we’re telling combat medics who have dealt with gunshot wounds that they can’t come home and be school nurses without training," said Eric Greitens, a Navy SEAL, military advocate, and Republican gubernatorial candidate in Missouri. A large part of the problem is that licensing standards are managed by the state governments, according to Greitens.
"States have to take on this issue, as well. The [Defense Department] can set standards and criteria to signal that these veterans have the proper training and credentials, but it’s up to the states to grant [training] waivers and exemptions," he said.
Eight states have undertaken reforms to streamline the process for veterans on an individual basis, according to congressional testimony from the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.
States force EMTs to meet a certain number of training hours before allowing them to care for the public. Veterans who worked in combat zones can find themselves learning about Tylenol dosage. The repetitive training requirements can frustrate veterans eager to return to civilian life, according to Cassidy.
"It is better for them and for their community if their expertise is used as quickly as possible. This is about jobs, easing transition to civilian life and providing emergency services to fellow Americans," Cassidy said in the statement.
Cassidy’s legislation is an update of a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) in 2012. It passed the House in September, 2012 and February, 2013 with bipartisan support, but the then-Democratic majority in the Senate failed to act on it.
The bill was also endorsed by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), which represents 40,000 EMTs across the country. Ben Chlapek, a retired Missouri EMT and former Army lieutenant colonel, told the House Subcommittee on Health in January that current licensing standards are "plaguing" veterans eager to serve. He urged lawmakers to create a system that allows veterans to bypass the training and skip straight to the licensing exam.
"It can take half of a year to get an Emergency Medical Technician license waiting for test dates and results. Basic combat medics, Navy Corpsmen, and Air Force medics have all of the training they need to challenge the test and should be allowed to do so," Chlapek said in his prepared remarks.
Kinzinger praised Cassidy for ensuring that the bill will get a hearing in the Senate.
"I appreciate Senator Cassidy introducing the companion legislation to the Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act. I look forward to working with him to send this bipartisan, common sense solution to the President’s desk so that veteran medics and EMTs are able to continue to protect our communities," he said in a statement.