You’ve heard the advice: Choose a career like teaching, nursing or accounting, because those jobs exist in every state. You’ll be able to find a job wherever you PCS!
Spouses who take this advice often find their careers derailed as they slam against state licensing or certification requirements after each PCS to a new state. It can take so long to get licensed or certified in a new home state that these spouses may spend months without the proper paperwork to get hired in their field.
Some discouraged spouses abandon their careers after taking too many heart-wrenching trips on a licensing merry-go-round. Fortunately, there is good news: Slow but steady progress-thanks to the efforts of milspouses like Mary Reding-is happening. Here’s an update on where things stand now.
White House Help
First Lady Michelle Obama lobbied on our behalf to the National Governor’s Association at their annual meeting this year, pleading for changes in state laws and regulations to assist military spouses.
She praised military spouses at the event in February and said they rarely ask for help. When they do bring something to our attention, she told the governors, “we know it’s serious.”
She went on to talk about nurse Kelly Crowley, who has lived in three states during her four years as a milspouse and estimates that these moves cost her six months of pay.
“The whole process can be so cumbersome that she’s not even sure that she’s going to go through it again for her family’s next assignment,” Obama said. “She’s ready to walk away from her career because the burdens are so great.”
She implored the governors to change laws, reshaping regulations and agencies as www.defense.gov outlined in a report released in February by the Treasury Department. That report revealed that nearly 35 percent of spouses in the labor force require licenses for their profession. Many are grade-school teachers, childcare workers, registered nurses, accountants, health care aides or dental assistants. Visit baseguide.com/resources/july12 to see the report.
To provide relief, the federal government has proposed “best practices” that states can follow. They can include:
• Allowing state endorsement of a current license as long as the spouse is in good standing in the former state and can demonstrate they can do the work correctly.
• Providing a temporary license allowing the spouse to work with minimal documentation until the spouse can jump through the standard licensing hoops.
• Speeding up the application process by allowing a state director or licensing board to approve applications.
Some states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Texas) have already put some of these measures in place. For an updated map, visit baseguide.com/resources/july12
MARY REDING: CHANGING THE GAME
Attorneys face tough licensing requirements, and with good reason. So PCS’ing to a new state in search of a legal position can be daunting. But for National Guard spouse Mary Reding, abandoning a successful career just wasn’t an option.
She passed the bar and began working in California, where she met and married her husband. When they moved to Ohio, she knew that by the time she jumped the hurdles to practice law (a two-year process) she’d be moving again.
So Reding petitioned the Ohio Supreme Court for a rule change. The request is still being reviewed, but it caught the attention of sitting judge Hon. Erin Masson Wirth, a Coast Guard spouse who has passed the bar in four states. Together, they realized that “if we are out there, there has to be more,” Reding says. So they founded the Military Spouse JD Network, which now has 300 members.
WHAT’S NEXT: Reding now lives in Arizona, where she can’t even provide legal advice to those in California via telecommuting. But her lobbying work continues, and has drawn the attention of the American Bar Association. That body voted Feb. 6 to support changes to licensing rules to allow military spouses to continue to practice despite constant PCS moves.
“It was an incredibly moving day because our profession saw us as peers,” Reding says. “We have their support now and they are really taking a lead.”
Reding does point out that any process must protect the public, ensuring that attorneys provide only “competent representation” and only take on duties they can sufficiently perform. “It’s really a balance and we don’t want to tell the states what to do,” says Reding. “But we want them to recognize that we are also serving.”