On the Right Path
by Tiffany Silverberg
On February 15, the Department of the Treasury, Department of Defense and Joining Forces, released a report highlighting the financial and emotional importance of expediting the licensure process in order to get military spouses working sooner, with each move. The report was announced at an event at the Pentagon hosted by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Secretary Panetta was joined on stage by General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Michelle Obama, first lady of the United States; Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President and Mrs. Ann Wells, Army spouse. Also in attendance were First Lady of Kentucky Jane Beshear, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their wives, representatives from military family support organizations, service members and military spouses who have been directly affected by the challenges presented.
Over 100,000 military spouses rely on state licensure or certification to continue their careers. That's more than a third of total military spouses in the United States. Furthermore, military spouses are ten times more likely to move to another state in any given year, than their civilian colleagues, forcing them to seek new licenses in their new states.
From teachers to nurses, hygienists to therapists, child care providers to lawyers, licensed military spouses find themselves filing unending paperwork every time they have to move to a new state. This delays their employment, putting financial pressure on their families and emotional stress on themselves. Sometimes, depending on job availability and timing, licensing requirements can prevent them from getting a job in a particular state altogether. This is especially true if the military family has to transfer within a year or two, leaving no time to update certification. This is no surprise to Wells, an Army spouse of over 30 years and a licensed nurse who knows too well the challenges of getting licensed in a new state, while trying to juggle deployments and other family logistics. "We are not looking for a handout and none of us for a second wants to change professional standards. We just want to support our families and continue the career we love," Ann said.
This report was a result of the Joining Forces initiative, commissioned by the President last year, to empower and encourage public and private sectors across various fields to find practical solutions to support military members and their families. In launching this report, the First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden committed their support in helping individual states find solutions to get military spouses working faster. "We are not asking any state to change their standards and every state has a right to set the bar, but it's also clear that this [individual state licensing] poses a problem," the First Lady explained. She and Dr. Biden pledged to take the report to the each governor when they gather in DC at the end of February.
"A spouse's employment plays a key role in the financial and personal well-being of military families, and their job satisfaction is an important component of the retention of servicemembers. Without adequate support for military spouses and their career objectives, the military could have trouble retaining service members," the report relates. It then continues with practical tips states can incorporate to ease the burden of military spouse state licensing and certification.
Currently 24 states have adopted or are in the process of adopting resolutions to expedite the process for military spouses. Michelle Obama and Jill Biden promised to help the additional 26 states find solutions that work for their licensing standards, using the report as a guideline. "By 2013, we want all states to pass legislation," the First Lady explained. "Military families have waited long enough."
Sue Hoppin, the Founder and President of the National Military Spouse Network attended the Pentagon event and found it to be promising. "It's great to see so much focus on these issues at the highest levels. Hopefully the administration's aggressive goal of getting all 50 states to pass legislation streamlining licensing processes coupled with the work being done by the Department of Defense state liaison office and others will result in real progress to ease the path to military spouse employment," Hoppin said.
This report has been a long time coming for military spouses who have spent decades fighting this issue. As governors and legislators are approached with this report, we encourage military spouses to reach out to their state governments and encourage them to find a solution. This level of attention on military spouse employment is encouraging for all, as it stresses the capability and diversity of our skills and the critical importance of employment to retention and morale. Let's take up the cause together and make work more accessible for us all.
Tiffany Silverberg is a freelance writer with over five years of experience in media and online writing. Tiffany uses her journalistic background to uncover unique angles and untold stories from her clients. She helps them present themselves and their products with freshness and excitement. Although her affair started far earlier, Tiffany formalized her love for words while studying linguistics at the University of California Berkeley. There, she gained critical research skills and trifling word trivia -- an impassioned, invaluable combination for anyone who needs their story told.
Tiffany can be reached at www.TiffanySilverberg.com.