New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania pursue new benefits for vets

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/8/2013

Three Rust Belt states are taking steps to provide new benefits to military veterans.

According to the federal government, 46 states have rules in place that allow driver licensing agencies to waive the CDL skills test for qualified military veterans. States that are preparing to offer the skills test waiver are Alaska, New Mexico and South Carolina. Alabama is the lone state yet to act.

A bill halfway through the Pennsylvania statehouse would further simplify the process for veterans to get back to work driving truck.

Pennsylvania law already allows service personnel returning from duty to exchange their military CDL for a state-issued CDL without requiring a driving test. However, to be eligible applicants must have at least two years of experience driving a military commercial vehicle “immediately preceding” application for a CDL.

The state Senate voted unanimously to advance one bill that would make the waiver available at any time after veterans return home.

Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Rochester, said the existing requirement is unnecessary.

“The military offers top-notch, real-life training that more than prepares its personnel to handle those vehicles,” Vogel stated. “We should provide very opportunity for service members and veterans to use their skills and training in the civilian world.”

Across the state line in Ohio, the House voted unanimously to adopt a similar rule change.

State law requires that applicants must have been regularly employed as a member or uniformed employee of the U.S. armed forces, including the Ohio National Guard, within the past 90 days to qualify for the skills test waiver.

HB98 would remove the recency requirement for the waiver.

A bill signed into law in New Jersey is intended to show appreciation for veterans’ service.

In the Garden State, truckers and others who served their country will soon have access to a simple form of ID showing their service. A new law entitles military veterans to a special designation on their driver’s licenses, or identification cards.

The Motor Vehicle Commission is responsible for creating a veterans designation on the person’s license or ID upon request. The designation will be available for anyone who has been honorably discharged from active military service.

Gov. Chris Christie said the change allows veterans to more easily take advantage of discounts offered by businesses or promotional programs.

“Plain and simple, this legislation will make life easier and more convenient for veterans of all ages,” Christie said in a news release. “With this single point of identification, veterans will now have easier access to services and discounts at businesses across the state.”

New Jersey is the 40th state to approve the rule. The Garden State’s program is expected to take 18 months to get up and running. At that time, eligible applicants can request the designation to be included.

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