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Vets on the fast track

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minnesota, visited Northland Community and Technical College in East Grand Forks on Tuesday, plugging a recently passed bill expected to place more veterans in health classrooms nationwide as soon as next year.

The Veterans to Paramedics Transition Act, signed into law earlier this year, essentially works to turn military medical training into transferable credits, giving skilled veterans the opportunity to skip ahead in their training to become EMTs, nurses or other health professionals.

"I'm pretty excited about this bill. I've been working on it, I'm embarrassed to admit, for about six years," Klobuchar said, adding the bill will help welcome veterans into the workforce and boost the number of certain medical professionals in underserved rural areas.

Dennis Bona, president of NCTC, joined Klobuchar on a tour of health classrooms and technology on campus before joining her at a press conference. He pointed out that, from an educational perspective, it's a waste of time to teach students things they already know.

The program works by giving federal grants to state-level agencies to regulate the training required for health personnel, Klobuchar explained, giving them incentive to re-work their certification requirements to recognize the skills some veterans already have.

Klobuchar pointed out that besides the obvious eligible veterans—such as army medics—high numbers of combat soldiers also have medical training that would make them eligible for fast-tracked course placement.

It'll take some time to put the program into effect, Klobuchar said, but veterans could start skipping ahead on coursework as soon as next year.

The bill was signed into law in July as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill targeted at nationwide opioid addiction. Klobuchar is one of the legislators who worked to include the veterans' bill within the broader CARA package.

Bruce Weymier, a battalion chief with the Grand Forks Fire Department, pointed out the bill stands to do more than just train health professionals. The Grand Forks Fire Department requires EMT qualifications, he said, which means the bill could help vets become fire crew members, too.

Klobuchar said she's touring because she wants to raise awareness among veterans that this opportunity will be available.

"We want our veterans to know that we want them to go into these fields," she said.

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108
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