Yesterday afternoon, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin joined First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon to unveil a new report outlining opportunities and best practices for states to enhance support for military spouses serving in professions with licensing requirements.
The report, written by the Departments of Treasury and Defense, found that military spouses often work in professions that require a state license or certification, such as teaching, child care, nursing, and accounting. In fact, 35 percent of military spouses in the labor force – more than 100,000 military spouses – require licenses or certifications for their professions.
The report also found that military spouses are ten times more likely than their civilian counterparts to have moved across state lines in the last year. And when they move to accompany their service member spouse on assignment to military bases around the country their professional licenses don’t always easily transfer. These frequent moves, combined with differing state requirements, can mean frequent and costly disruptions in military spouses’ careers.
Easing these barriers to employment would help thousands of military families. In a recent survey, forty percent of military spouses who had recently moved said that easier state-to-state transfer of occupational licenses and certifications would have helped them obtain a new job more easily. And the lack of streamlined transfers is one of the many challenges contributing to an unemployment rate among military spouses that is approximately double the rate of their civilian counterparts.
The differences in licensing requirements across state lines take a financial toll on families by reducing their overall income and creating uncertainty around future household finances. These difficulties also take an emotional toll, as military spouses are stymied in their efforts to advance their careers. And research suggests that our service members may be less likely to continue their own military careers if their partners face repeated difficulties pursuing their professional ambitions and contributing to their families’ financial security.
The report, “Supporting our Military Families: Best Practices for Streamlining Occupational Licensing Across State Lines,” outlines best practices that can be implemented by states to help break down these barriers to employment for military spouses, including:
Facilitating endorsement of a current license from another state as long as the requirements for licensure in that jurisdiction are substantially equivalent as in the licensing state;
Providing a temporary or provisional license allowing the military spouse to practice while fulfilling requirements needed to qualify for endorsement in the licensing state, or awaiting verification of documentation supporting an endorsement; and,
Expediting application procedures so that the official overseeing licensing within a state also has the authority to approve license applications for the boards; and/or the individual licensing boards have authority to approve a license based simply on an affidavit from the applicant that the information provided on the application is true and that verifying documentation has been requested.
The inability to easily transfer professional licenses and certification has caused substantial difficulty for many military spouses, who already sacrifice so much for our country. But it’s our hope that by shining a spotlight on this issue and working with states to address it, we can help make a meaningful, positive difference in lives of thousands of military families.
Marissa Hopkins is Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs.
[Photo credit: White House]