W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 2.17

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What Is a VEC Supposed to Do?

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. One of our prospective VE team members seems to think he knows everything about amateur operator license examining. He claims there is but one VEC and all of our VEs work for it.

A. He should access the FCC webpage for the names and addresses of all of our 14 VECs and correct his faulty knowledge of our VE system. Your VE team might have some remedial training to do before accepting that guy’s services.

Q. What is a VEC?

A. As the title implies, a Section 97.519 VEC is a coordinator. Section 97.3(a)(50) defines the term “VEC” as used in Part 97 to mean a volunteer-examiner coordinator. It is supposed to be an organization that exists for the purpose of furthering the amateur service and it has entered into a written Section 97.521 agreement with the FCC to coordinate the examination preparation and administration work of our volunteer examiners. The organization is supposed to be capable of serving as a VEC in at least one of the thirteen Appendix 2 VEC regions.

Q. What is a VEC is supposed to do?

A. Each Section 97.519 VEC is supposed to carry out Section 97.519 coordinating and processing duties in support of our Section 97.509 administering VEs.

    Section 97.509(m) says that the coordinating VEC must present to our Section 97.509 administering VEs instructions for submitting to the coordinating VEC application documents filed by successful examinees.

   Section 97.523 says All VECs must cooperate in maintaining one question pool for each written examination element. It also requires Each question pool must be published and made available to the public prior to its use for making a question set.

   A Section 97.519 VEC must agree – or disagree – to coordinate each Section 97.509(a) examination session. It must also accredit each Section 97.509 administering VE at the session. It is supposed to provide to the Section 97.509 administering VEs with Section 97.507(c) instructions for preparing, or obtaining from a supplier, each written question set administered to an examinee for an amateur operator license. Section 97.519, moreover, codifies these requirements:

(a) A VEC must coordinate the efforts of VEs in preparing and administering examinations.

(b) At the completion of each examination session, the coordinating VEC must collect applicant information and test results from the administering VEs. The coordinating VEC must:

   (1) Screen collected information;

   (2) Resolve all discrepancies and verify that the VEs' certifications are properly completed; and

   (3) For qualified examinees, forward electronically all required data to the FCC. All data forwarded must be retained for at least 15 months and must be made available to the FCC upon request.

(c) Each VEC must make any examination records available to the FCC, upon request.

Q. Why isn’t it improper to publish verbatim all of the answers to the exam questions?

A. Improper or not, there is no FCC rule disallowing anyone from doing that. Nor is there any rule requiring any Section 97.509 administering VE to substitute the VECs’ answers for their his/her personal knowledge.

Q. It is improper to administer the exams in the multiple-guess format.

A. Improper or not, there is no FCC rule requiring the examination to be administered in any particular format, be it multi-choice, script, true-false, etc. Section 97.509(h) says: Upon completion of each examination element, the administering VEs must immediately grade the examinee's answers. For examinations administered remotely, the administering VEs must grade the examinee's answers at the earliest practical opportunity. The administering VEs are responsible for determining the correctness of the examinee's answers.

Q. Must the VEC be present at an exam session?

A. There is no outright requirement that any representative of the coordinating VEC be in attendance at an examination session.

Q. Wouldn’t there have to a VEC rep present at any exam session whenever that is also the place from where the data is uploaded to the FCC?

A. Yes. The Section 97.519 VEC would have to have a presence at the place where the necessary applicant information and test results data in connection with a successful examination is collected from the Section 97.509 administering VEs.

Q. Can the VECs accredit any ham as a VE?

A. No. A Section 97.519 VEC, however, is supposed to seek a broad representation of amateur operators to be VEs. A VEC is not supposed to discriminate in accrediting VEs on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin; nor on the basis of membership (or lack thereof) in an amateur service organization; nor on the basis of the person accepting or declining to accept reimbursement. A VEC is not supposed to accredit any person as a VE who is under 18 years of age.

   A VEC is not supposed to accredit a person as a VE who does not hold an FCC license grant of Amateur Extra, Advanced or General Class operator; is not supposed to accredit a person as a VE whose grant of an amateur station license or amateur operator license has ever been revoked or suspended; and is not supposed to accredit a person as a VE if the FCC does not accept the voluntary and uncompensated services of the person.

   A VEC is not supposed to accredit a person as a VE if the VEC determines that the person is not competent to perform the VE functions, nor is a VEC is supposed to accredit a person as a VE if the VEC determines that questions of the person’s integrity or honesty could compromise the examinations.

Q. Is the VEC supposed to prepare the exam questions?

A. No. That task is outsourced to our Section 97.507 preparing VEs.

Q. Are the VECs required to provide the answers to the questions?

A. No. That task is outsourced to our Section 97.509 administering VEs.

Q. What VE-VEC coordination interaction is supposed to occur?

A. The Section 97.513 VE session manager is authorized to carry on liaison functions between the VE Team and the coordinating VEC as well as organize activities at an examination session.

Q. What VE-VEC processing interaction is supposed to happen?

A. The Section 97.519 VEC is supposed to collect and screen for correctness the applicant and test results information collected from our Section 97.509 administering VEs; is supposed to resolve all discrepancies and verify that the VEs’ Section 97.519(b)(2) certifications are properly completed. Only then, the Section 97.519 VEC is supposed to keystroke and upload the data to the FCC via the Internet.

   The Section 97.519 VEC is supposed to retain for at least 15 months the source documents for all examination data forwarded to the FCC; is supposed to make available to the FCC upon request all applicant information and test results collected from our Section 97.509 administering VEs; and is supposed to make examination records available upon FCC request.

Q. How much can the VEs and VECs charge?

A. A VE may be reimbursed by examinees for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in his/her Section 97.507 preparing VEs and Section 97.509 administering VEs.

   A VEC may be reimbursed by examinees for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in its Section 97.519 examination session coordinating and processing.

Q. I paid the VEs hard cash for my license exam. Who got my money?

A. That depends upon which of our 14 VECs coordinated the session at which you were examined. You can rule out our Laurel Amateur Radio Club-VEC because it is the only one that has never charged any examinee for anything ever since the 1984 startup of our all-volunteer examiner system.           

Q. How much of my money went to the FCC?

A. Zero as in nada, zilch, and zip.

Q. How much went to the VEs? How much to the VEC?

A. You will have to ask them about that. Otherwise, all we have to go on is codified in Section 97.527: VEs and VECs may be reimbursed by examinees for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in preparing, processing, administering, or coordinating an examination for an amateur operator license. 

   The VECs seem to always show up at the very head of the payout line.  Whatever is left over – if there is any – sometimes ends up with the VEs that you encountered doing the actual grunt work of preparing and administering your antiquated pencil-to-paper examination. 

Q. Aren’t the VECs also responsible for the license application form?

A. Not according to Section 97.17(b)(1). It says that the VEs may collect all necessary information in any manner of their choosing, including creating their own forms. This seems to be sufficiently flexible as to allow VEs to choose using NCVEC Form 605.

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October 17, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions