DoD takes steps to remove spouse
|WASHINGTON, D.C. (American Forces Press Service) — The
Department of Defense (DoD) is making “tremendous” strides in its
efforts to ease employment challenges for military spouses with
occupational licenses, a DoD official said.
“This year we’re having tremendous success, and expect to see even more
progress next year,” Ed Kringer, director of state liaison and
educational opportunity for the Pentagon’s office of military community
and family policy, told an audience gathered for the National
Credentialing Summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking on a panel, Kringer described the department’s efforts to break
down barriers for spouses challenged by states’ varying licensure
Kringer said his office’s role is to engage in state-level discussions
on issues affecting service members and their Families. Each year, he
explained, officials select the top 10 state-level issues to focus on,
and then work to educate state policy makers and other officials on
these challenges in the hopes of prompting change.
One of the DoD’s top issues for 2012 is easing military spouse
transitions through license portability, Kringer said. A lack of
portability — the ability to transfer an existing license to a new state
with minimal application requirements — can cause spouses to bear high
administrative and financial burdens as they attempt to obtain a
A new spouse employment report, produced by the Defense and Treasury
departments, underscores the breadth of this issue. Unveiled by First
Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden,
and senior defense officials at the Pentagon, the report spotlights
spouses’ employment challenges and offers a roadmap states can use to
streamline or expedite licensing procedures.
More than 100,000 military spouses or 35 percent of military spouses in
the work force are in nearly 50 occupations and professions that require
a license or certification, the report said, citing teaching, nursing
and child care as the most common.
Yet, military Families frequently move across state lines, confronting a
new set of licensure requirements each time. The report indicates that
military spouses are 10 times more likely to have moved across state
lines in the past year than their counterparts in civilian life.
During an earlier panel, Laura Dempsey, director of military spouse
employment programs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a military
spouse, cited her challenges with maintaining her career as an attorney.
She’s already taken four different state bar exams over the course of
her husband’s career, she said.
Fellow panelist Vivian Greentree, research and policy director for Blue
Star Families and a Navy wife, noted spouses rarely get past the fifth
or sixth move without opting to forgo the time-consuming licensure
process. Spouses are “jumping through hoops” to keep their careers on
track, but shouldn’t have to do so, she added.
“It’s enough to ask — with households, careers, school and deployments —
to stay sane at the end of the day,” she said.
Kringer cited some ways states can help to break down these employment
• Facilitating endorsement of a current license from another state as
long as requirements are substantially equivalent;
• Providing a temporary or provisional license spouses can use to work
while fulfilling state requirements; and
• Expediting application procedures.
The endorsement issue heavily affects military spouses, Kringer noted.
Nearly all states have an endorsement process, he explained, but most
require some level of competency, such as having actively practiced for
four out of the last six years. This is a reasonable requirement for
most people, he said, but not for spouses who may have lived overseas
for the past three years or were in a stateside location without
opportunities in their field.
Kringer said he’d like to see states look at other ways spouses can
prove their competence, such as volunteer work or continuing education.
Temporary licenses are another way states can ease employment issues.
If states can issue a temporary license to spouses, they’ll be able to
work while fulfilling requirements needed to qualify for endorsement or
while awaiting verification of documentation supporting an endorsement.
This measure is particularly helpful to military spouses as they’re
typically in one location for just two to three years, Kringer
explained. If it takes six months to obtain a license, that leaves
spouses with a short window of time to find employment or work.
Streamlined approvals also will help to speed up the process, Kringer
noted. Kringer cited examples of best practices outlined in the report
that other states could potentially adopt or adapt to their needs.
Kringer praised Montana state officials for passing a creative piece of
legislation. In this bill, a spouse applies for an endorsement or a
temporary license, and based on the application and an affidavit,
officials either will grant the endorsement or a temporary license.
Kringer said he’s been amazed at states’ reception of spouse license
legislation. “I’m very pleased with where we are and where we’re going,”
The first lady noted that 11 states have adopted laws to aid spouse
license portability, and 15 have legislation pending or waiting to be
introduced. Officials have set a national goal: by 2014, they want to
see all 50 states pass legislation to address licensing issues. “But
that still leaves 26 states — that still leaves more than half the
country — that have yet to address this issue,” she said.
By removing barriers to military spouse employment, leaders are looking
out not only for military Families’ well-being, but also the nation’s
security, Kringer said. A military spouse’s outlook is a key factor in a
military member’s decision to re-enlist.
“Military spouses want careers, and to the extent that that need isn’t
satisfied, they can become very unhappy being a military spouse,” he
said. “And if they’re unhappy, their spouse will be unhappy being a
DoD will continue to partner with the White House and other federal
agencies to keep the spotlight on this important issue, Kringer said.