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Bill would encourage civilian EMT certification for veterans

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Location: Washington, DC

A House bill discussed Wednesday on Capitol Hill would offer incentives to states to streamline the certification process for veterans, who are often more qualified for EMT jobs than civilian applicants.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., introduced the bill. Kinzinger, a major in the Air National Guard, said he was able to easily transfer his active duty military training as a pilot to Federal Aviation Administration certification.

Because individual states dictate certification and licensing for EMTs and paramedics, an easy transition is not possible for most veteran medics.

When some veterans return to civilian life, they are forced to start with basic training, when they may need only refresher courses in some subject areas they didn't encounter in combat zones.

"Last week's labor numbers showed the trouble veterans are having in getting jobs in the civilian market," Kinzinger said. "This is an easy way to start."

The bill - H.R. 4124, the Veteran Medical Technician Support Act - has received bipartisan support from Congress and little opposition from state legislatures, Kinzinger said.

It would allow $200,000 to be distributed through the Department of Health and Human Services each year from 2013 to 2017 to states that work to simplify EMT certification process for veterans.

"It's not a huge sum, but it's enough to get started," Kinzinger said.

In a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Jackson County, Mo., Deputy Fire Chief Ben Chlapek testified that military field training prepares veterans for civilian work.

"External fixation of multiple fractures shunts to restore circulation to a mangled limb, and insertion of chest tubes to expand a collapsed lung are just a few of the procedures they learn and perform in the most severe conditions," Chlapek said. "In reality, all they may need is a two-day advanced cardiac life support class, a module on geriatric medicine, a refresher on obstetrics and a chance to challenge the written and practical tests."

Daniel Nichols is a senior vice president of Victory Media Inc., a veteran-owned business in Pittsburgh that advocates for veterans in the workforce. He said he has worked with hospitals to evaluate hiring procedures.

Nichols said veterans are often overqualified but take entry-level jobs because they lacked state accreditation.

"The Department of Education does not recognize the military as an accredited entity," Nichols said. "It is a big step down. It often is a hurt to their personal psyche and pride."


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