OOIDA: FMCSA places limits on VA doctor provision

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 1/4/2017

Last month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a proposal that would make it easier for Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to provide DOT physicals for military veterans.

While the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association applauds the intent of the proposal, the group expressed some concern over the rule’s definition of a qualified VA physician. In the notice of proposed rulemaking, the FMCSA defines such as only a “doctor of medicine” or “doctor of osteopathy” even though the requirements for a certified medical examiner also include advanced practice nurses, doctors of chiropractic, physician assistants, or other medical professionals authorized to perform physical examinations.

The proposal stems from section 5403 of Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which requires the FMCSA to develop a process for qualified VA physicians to perform a medical examination and provide a medical certificate to military veterans who operate commercial motor vehicles.

As part of the proposal, the FMCSA will provide training and testing to VA physicians to ensure they are well versed in what goes into a DOT physical. Currently, only 10 VA physicians are included on the national registry’s list of almost 50,000 certified medical examiners.

“OOIDA is supportive of making it seamless for veterans to use the VA system to help secure and/or preserve their livelihood,” the Association wrote in formal comments. “We believe this was, in fact, the Congressional intent behind section 5403 and look forward to helping further identify ways to promote veterans in the profession.”

However, OOIDA contends that limiting VA physicians to doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathy goes against the intentions of the FAST Act.

“OOIDA believes that this limitation could actually run contrary to the purpose of the provision and would encourage the Agency to change the definition to promote ease and accessibility,” the Association wrote.

“In order for this provision to be successful, the Agency should not only allow for medical professionals to easily access the training and testing materials, but should also make it attractive for medical professionals to seek the proper certification to be listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners and quickly begin servicing patients. … The level of caution exercised by the Agency is likely not warranted and may have a chilling effect on encouraging medical professionals in the VA system.”

OOIDA also encourages metrics to be established to evaluate whether the developed process is actually fulfilling Congressional intent and whether or not the FMCSA is doing enough to make qualified medical professionals aware of the test.

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