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Spouse Employment and the License Problem

The Defense Department announced yesterday that 16 states have either adopted laws or are close to doing so that will ease professional licensing restrictions for out of state military spouses.

Spouses who relocate as part of a military move often find that their state certified professional licenses for everything from cosmetology to teaching to nursing don’t meet the requirements of their new state. And getting a new license for the new state can be a lengthy, expensive process, significantly delaying their ability to even apply for jobs that are often hard to come by anyway.

The effort to get states to change their licensing rules for military spouses is the job of the DoD’s State Liaison and Educational Opportunity office. Open in 2004, that office also pushes for other military exemptions, such as an effort to allow military children to transfer their out of state school course work. Thirty-nine states have jumped on that bandwagon since 2008.

The big announcement was that 16 states have enacted or are in the processing of enacting the licensing change. Sixteen. Now, I was homeschooled and all  — but I am smart enough to know that there are a lot more than 16 states out there. Why have only 16 – 16! — made this concession? And why has it taken the DoD office seven years to convince only that many to do it? Does that strike anyone else as ridiculous?

One hesitancy, this story points out, could be that the states don’t want to give military spouses (who, after all, aren’t really serving in the military, right? Gag) a special in. But as the head of the education liaison office says, it’s about leveling the playing field – not giving preference.

From the story:

“We’re not looking to make the military community have a preferred status in states,” Beauregard said. “We’re looking at those things that impede people because of their military life. In all cases, we’re just looking to level the playing field.”

The office has lobbied states for two types of licensing changes. The first asks states to endorse another’s’ professional accreditation as legit. The second gives spouses a temporary license from the new state so that they can get a job while working on the new requirements.

Of those 16 states that have been so kind as to make any change at all, only seven — Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, New York and Texas — are willing to endorse an out of state license. Seven more — Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee – have taken the temp license route. Utah flat out accepts out of state licenses (no endorsement process needed) and Virginia takes a whole new approach, allowing spouses to put a hold on any license they get in the state and just reuse it when they come back (no renewal needed).

I am sure this issue is much more complicated than just the “have you hugged a MilSpouse today?” sentiment I think everyone should have as a matter of course. But it nonetheless seems ridiculous to me that something so simple sounding is so difficult to accomplish. Thank God no one makes me get a license to blog and report or I’d probably just give it all up.

Edit: Thanks to reader Damsel for pointing us to this Facebook discussion board hosted by Military Community and Family Policy page. You can go there to share your thoughts on this license issue with DoD.

You can find some spouse employment options and information on Military.com here.

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the managing editor of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is an Associate Editor. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on NPR and in the New York Times. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.