by Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
3/22/2013 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Defense Department officials recognize that an unemployed spouse can affect a service member’s retention, so efforts continue to allow spouses’ professional licenses to transfer from state to state as military families move from one duty station to another, a Pentagon official told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
Marcus Beauregard, chief of DOD’s states liaison office, noted that certain occupations such as nursing and other medical positions require licensing.
And when a military family moves to a new state, he added, obtaining a license can take several months. This, he said, can “dramatically limit” the time spouses have to further careers in their professions.
Just finding and securing a job presents its own set of challenges in any military family move, Beauregard said, noting that the tempo and frequency of moves is disruptive. A spouse may be at a duty station for two to four years, he added, and in that time must establish a home, get children in school and look for employment.
Because licensing can become a barrier to spouses seeking employment, Beauregard said, the Defense Department led an initiative for states to recognize job licenses that come from other states.
Concern over spouse employment from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama has given the issue “an immense amount of visibility,” Beauregard said, and a White House report helped to get states to modify some requirements.
The report showed military spouses move 10 times more often than their civilian counterparts, and 5 percent of them are in occupations that require licensing, so it is an important issue to military families, he said.
“It gave us the opportunity to work with the first lady’s ‘Joining Forces’ initiative to promote the idea of changing licensing requirements to expedite them to improve spouses’ situations,” Beauregard said.
Three mechanisms are in place to expedite licenses, he said:
— The spouse can present her previous license to the new state for acceptance if the requirements for the occupation are “substantially equivalent”;
— The new state can issue a temporary license so the spouse has an opportunity to fulfill the requirements of the state through education and training; and
— Expediting the state’s process for military spouses to obtain a new license.
Military spouses searching for work following an overseas assignment might encounter a different set of circumstances that requires a state license, Beauregard said. If a the service member married to spouse returning from overseas had a break in service, the spouse might face a “recent experience” licensing requirement to show competency, he explained.
“We’ve gotten states to accept something other than recent experience to show competency,” Beauregard said, “such as continuing education [credits], or perhaps taking a test.”
If licensing and job hunting in a new state takes more time than expected, military spouses are entitled to file a claim for unemployment insurance, Beauregard said.
“It is something they have available to them, and it certainly should be something to consider when they transition to their new location,” he added. State officials fully understand that military spouses have no choice but to move to keep their families intact.
Eligibility requirements and how to file are available online on state websites, Beauregard said, and the Military OneSource website also has information on unemployment compensation.
“The decision to stay in the military involves not just the service member, but the family,” he said. “An opportunity for a military spouse to engage in a career is very important.”