So, after about 3 months my freshly renewed license is finally in hand. Total cost, not counting stress management therapy, roughly $3000.00 U.S.D. not counting the huge debt of gratitude for the patience my Missus demonstrated dealing with me during it all..
[The bulk of that cost was absorbed by insurance (thank the heavens). My "out-of-pocket" was $500.00 for a one day radar renewal course at S.U.N.Y. Maritime including an overnight stay, $145.00 for application fees, $25.00 for postage and such, $75.00 in co-pays for Doctor visits, and maybe $20.00 worth of phone calls. The license consultant was on the company dime.]
I submitted in January 4 1/2 months early following my licensing consultant’s advice and assurances that I had plenty of time. Renewal was completed almost five weeks before my license expired and I squeaked in under the wire getting the traditional license just ahead of the April 20th changeover to the new M.M.C.
Subsequent to N.V.I.C. 4-08 and in complying with the new reporting requirements regarding my “lifetime health history” I reported an issue on my last 719k in 2008 that, although fully resolved in 2005, had generated red flags in the M.R.O. which required me to provide documentation (15 pages of it) to prove I submitted to a battery of diagnostic tests and was “fit for duty”.
My initial concerns as to who would be evaluating my medical history and what kind of qualifications they would possess were relieved when I spoke with a very earnest and helpful Nurse Practitioner working in the M.R.O. She was professional, concise, attentive and helpful, (thank you Ms. Paula Donohue). Although this bump in the road was unsettling, I didn’t feel as though I was getting singled out or railroaded by an overzealous policy to rid the US Merchant Marine of my less than “Olympian” physique. My Doctor’s information was given it’s due and I was cleared by the M.R.O. within a couple of days after the documentation was faxed to West Virginia.
This process didn’t take as long as it could have even though it seemed like it was never going to end. I know the worst of it was caused by preconceptions I harbored. The horror I expected was merely administrative process in the face of thousands just like me waiting for documents. When my livelihood is in someone else’s hands I tend to get a bit anxious. The abuse I had steeled myself for did not materialize.
Except for the medical review hiccup, I didn’t really suffer any unreasonable difficulty. The radar endorsement was a
non-issue, it’s on the license without an expiration date as dictated by the new regs. My license consultant had it wrong to accelerate my radar renewal but it needed doing anyway. The “not knowing” was the toughest part of it along with the knowledge that I was in process at the very time the changeover to the N.M.C. had just settled in and the new M.M.C. was imminent.
Everyone I spoke to or had dealings with at the National Maritime Center went out of their way to assist me with questions or procedures as they arose. The folks were thoughtful and made every effort to explain the system and its machinations for me as I waited and waded through the process. I should add, I was never treated as well at any R.E.C.
Since I was foolish enough to listen to my license consultant and only allowed 4 1/2 months for renewal, I can consider my anxiety self-imposed. As I grew increasingly concerned about my approaching expiration date and after calling the Center for guidance, I found out that although I had cleared medical it would be a couple of weeks before I would get assigned an evaluator. I was in the end run, but still had a hill or two to climb before I was done. I was advised all I had to do was send an email requesting consideration. One day after I made my request I was notified by email that I had been bumped up the chain of command and assigned to an evaluator in the Professional Qualifications Review Board.
The demons we’ve all been wringing our hands over for the last year or so are just not there. The folks that are doing the job at the N.M.C. are doing the job. What more can we ask? The sheer volume of work that is being taken on by the Center staggers the imagination, but it’s getting done. They’re still struggling with an 80+ day average, but the numbers are huge. An update/announcement on document processing on April 8th 2009 is at this link.
I had both barrels loaded and ready if I felt I was being treated poorly but I never had any good reason to get upset with the people in West Virginia.
Since my experience included a request for additional information while in Medical review, I would recommend that the Center make a better use of email in notifying us if further info is required. I was following my renewal closely on the “Application Status link” when I saw that additional information was needed. I understand using snail mail for official notice, but an email sent at the same time as the mailing would allow one to start collecting the requested data that much sooner. The people at the Center surprised me again when a supervisor cut and pasted a note together with the list of information requested and emailed it to me so I could set up the appointments I needed instead of waiting to come home from my next hitch and then start making appointments. I would still be waiting had they not gone the extra mile for me (not to mention I’d be getting the new M.M.C. instead of the last of the real licenses)
Naturally I was concerned that I was going to be obligated to submit to extended testing and expense annually rather than the normal 719k, so I posed this question to the National Maritime Center “answer desk”; what will be the policy regarding those of us who have generated (and subsequently satisfied) red flag issues in the M.R.O. during a renewal regarding our annual physicals?
1. Since further review was necessary (for whatever raised a red flag in MRO), there will be a waiver issued with the new license.
2. The condition in question should be noted by your Doctor on your annual 719k and that it is under control as required and/or unchanged. Any changes in a waiver condition requires the N.M.C. be notified within 30 days.
I mentioned that I thought the waiver was tantamount to a “scarlet letter” in my file since I had no physical restrictions or prescribed medications. The analogy didn’t elicit any more than a repetition of policy. Simply, that’s just how it is. And, since the waiver is required to be carried with your license, it’s another piece of paper you’ll need to produce on demand.
For those of you who are about to renew some advice; Allow at least 6 months. It shouldn’t take that long, but the breathing room it affords is well worth it.
Regarding any medical review, more documentation is better, give’em the whole damn file.
Credentials in the Requested state indicate that your application has been received by the Regional Exam Center (REC) and entered into the electronic database for processing on the date shown.
Typically, by the time your application arrives at NMC, your background check has been completed and the application can move on. However, credential(s) moved to this temporary state indicate that the screening has not yet been completed. In the event NMC requires additional information, you will be notified in writing, by mail.
APPROVED TO TEST
Credentials in the Approved to Test state indicate that you are ready for testing. Within the next few days you should receive a letter from NMC detailing the exam procedures. Once in receipt of this letter, you should access the REC website at: http://www.uscg.mil/nmc/rec_information.asp to schedule your exams.
Approved to test letters are valid for one year from the date of the letter.
READY TO BE EVALUATED-MEB
Credentials in the Ready to Be Evaluated-MEB state indicates that your application is awaiting review by the Medical Evaluation Branch (MEB) due to the presence of a medical or physical condition. When assigned to a Medical Evaluator, credentials will be shown in the Being Evaluated state.
READY TO BE EVALUATE-PQEB
Your application is ready to be assigned to the Professional Qualifications Evaluations Branch (PQEB) and will be assigned to the next available Evaluator. Upon assignment, credentials will be shown in the Being Evaluated state. (Author’s note; this could take some time to get to on an evaluator’s desk, this is the point where I requested my documents be expedited)
In Transit indicates that your application package was deemed complete and shipped to the National Maritime Center for processing on the date shown. Currently the MLD program uses commercial express services and delivery time is approximately two – seven business days.
Amplifying information is required to complete the evaluation process for credentials in the Awaiting Info state. In addition to the letter you will receive by mail, you may also view a description of the information required on the Application Status screen. You have 90-days from the date of the letter to provide this information, at which time your credentials will be moved back to the Being Evaluated state, and eventually on to issuance.
(Author’s note; This is what I meant about sending an email. If I had an email at the time the letter was mailed I would have had a little more time to get things together, I was accommodated with an email by a supervisor(R. Kelley), on request. The letter took 6 business days to arrive, the email was instant and allowed me some extra time.)
Final quality checks for accuracy are performed on all credentials by an authorized approving official. Upon completion, credentials are moved to the approved to print state for issuance.
APPROVED TO PRINT
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