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USCG Drug Testing Compliance – Part 9

21 Mar 2015

… Captain can lose credential over positive drug test … Drug and Alcohol Testing as required by the DOT and the United States Coast Guard …Operating a Sport Fishing Charter Boat: The Licensed Captain and What Happened To Him – Part 9

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Read Part 8 of the Series Here >>>

Now that the issue of unemployment compensation for that crewmember who tested positive for three drugs has been resolved, I feel better.  It is with a sign of relief that my account will not be tapped to pay unemployment compensation to that crewmember.  I has just received a phone call from the Coast Guard Investigating Officer (IO) who is handling the case of my relief captain who tested positive.  He asked me to come to their office to talk to him about this case.  An appointment was made to discuss the case with him.

I went to the appointment taking the positive test results with me along with the particulars of the Serious Marine Incident.  We discussed the incident that required the testing with the IO stating that all the requirements for testing had been fulfilled.  That clears up the question of “Was their just reason or cause for the testing to take place?”  The IO explained that the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) will ask what the test reason was and is that test reason justified.  Some of the ALJs have been known to dismiss the case if there is not a justified reason for the testing to take place.

Out of curiosity I asked the IO what was the process that would take place.  I had heard rumors of the process is all but did not know exactly what happens. 

The IO informed me that they would investigate the test itself to ensure that it would meet Coast Guard standards doing due diligence to ensure that the test was valid.  They would also check and make sure that the test was collected by a DOT qualified collector and that the MRO was DOT qualified.  The IO also informed me that they might request a litigation package from the laboratory but that would be dependent upon on the actions of the captain and what he wanted to do.

I asked the IO what were the options for this captain.  He explained to me that the captain could accept a Settlement Agreement or go to a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

The IO told me that if the captain wanted to contest the drug test, he would have to prove that that the specimen was not his specimen and that the test was flawed.  If the captain could not prove that in front of the ALJ, then his license would be revoked and he would not be able to get it back for a long time, usually 3-5 years. I thought to myself that is a long time to not have a license but that is how it is in order to have waterways that are safe for the public.

The IO also mentioned that the Captain did sign the form acknowledging that the specimen provided as his specimen and that he had not adulterated that specimen.  He showed me that statement and the wording contained in Section IV of the CF.  If the Captain wants to contest the test results, then a litigation package will usually be requested from the laboratory.

The IO mentioned a Settlement Agreement but I was not familiar with that agreement so I had to ask about that agreement and what did it contain.

The IO explained to me that most of the credentialed mariners accepted the Settlement Agreement and complete all the terms of the Agreement, usually in 16 to 18 months.  The revocation of the credential is suspended while the terms of the Settlement Agreement are being complete.

The terms briefly of the Settlement Agreement were:

  • Enter an accredited treatment program within 30 days of signing the agreement.  The treatment program has to be one that will meet the addiction needs of the individual. The treatment program can be recommended by the MRO or a DOT qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

                  a. NOTE:  The SAP can be recommended to the mariner by the MRO or can be one that the mariner has been referred to upon having a non-negative                       drug test.  The treatment program could be an inpatient or an outpatient type of program.

                  b. NOTE:  The treatment program can be accredited by a state agency or a national organization like JACHO or other similar organizations. 

  • The treatment program has to be completed within 90 days of signing the agreement or substantial progress has been made for program completion.  Upon completion, documentation of completion is to be presented to the IO. 
  • Upon successful completion of the initial treatment program, the requirement is to enroll in a program like Narcotics or Alcoholic Anonymous.  The person will have to document their attendance at these meetings and present that to the IO.  This program attendance is to last a minimum of 12 months. 
  • Enroll in a random type drug test program to do at least 12 tests over a 12 months.  All drug tests have to be completed and are to be DOT USCG drug test. 

               a. NOTE: These tests are USCG required and Not by the SAP.  They are not considered Follow-up or Return to Work drug tests being ordered by the SAP. 

  • Failure to complete any of the above requirements or pass all of the randomized drug tests will result in the revocation of the credential.

All of this documentation has to be presented to the IO will in turn will present this evidence to the ALJ.  The final decision for the return of the credential is conducted by the ALJ.

After all of this the mariner still needs to get a letter from the MRO in accordance with 46 CFR part 16.201(e) and (f).  The mariner also has to complete the SAP requirements (49 CFR part 40, subpart O) before returning to work.

After the IO told me all of this, I thought to myself questioning why a licensed individual would use illegal controlled substance(s) and put their career in jeopardy.  All of the above is a very steep price to pay for the use of a controlled substance.

Note to readers.  The above process if very complex particularly in regards to the role of the SAP and MRO and who is responsible for each segment of treatment or rehabilitation. .  If there are any questions or concerns about the above, please contact me through National Drug Screening.

The next article will be a synopsis of this series of compliance with Coast Guard regulations.