By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., June 13, 2011 — A Defense Department organization is making it easier for military spouses to maintain professional licenses as they move from state to state.
State Liaison and Educational Opportunity, an office of military community and family policy here, today announced that 16 states have adopted laws, or are close to doing so, to make it easier for military spouses to work in their career fields.
“It gets them to work faster, and that’s been our objective,” Marcus Beauregard, chief of the state liaison office and a retired Air Force officer, said in an interview with American Forces Press Service.
States require licenses for practitioners in virtually every medical occupation, as well as teaching, social work, cosmetology and other fields, and the standards vary from state to state, Beauregard said. DOD’s state liaison office was created in 2004 to work with states to address military family issues, and the licensing problem has been among the top concerns of families, he said.
Of working military spouses, 33 percent work in fields that require licenses, mostly nursing and teaching, Beauregard said.
The state liaison office created a forum for spouses to discuss the licensing problems on its Facebook page. More than 100 spouses wrote in, describing licensing challenges ranging from the expense of having to license with a new state every two to three years to lengthy processes of certification that include much paperwork, training, waiting periods, internships and the like. Many found that by the time they could get through the process, it would be time to relocate again.
“I gave up education as a profession because of all that was involved in obtaining licensure with each move,” a spouse wrote. “It was a difficult decision.”
The state liaison office formed partnerships with state agencies and professional associations to educate state lawmakers about the unique challenges to military families.
“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 promoted two strategies for mitigating the licensing challenges. The first — and favorite — is for states to permit licenses by endorsement of the last state license. The second option allows a temporary license to expedite the spouse’s employment options.
States that have enacted laws for endorsement of licenses — or those waiting for a governor’s signature — are Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, New York and Texas. States that allow temporary licenses are Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee. Utah allows nonresident military spouses to use out-of-state licenses, and Virginia allows military spouses who leave the state to re-use the license upon their return, Beauregard said.
The state liaison office’s efforts are in line with President Barack Obama’s directive released early this year to promote a “whole of government” approach to helping military families. Since 2008, the office also has succeeded in getting 39 states to pass laws to accept the out-of-state course work of school-age military children.