Easing the Burden for Military Families with License Portability

May 10, 2019 by Sean Trambley
Tammy McCracken and her daughter Mattie, 16, make cinnamon muffins in the kitchen of the family home on April 22, 2019, in Tyrone, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

On Thursday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced the Portable Certification of Spouses Act, legislation to improve the portability of occupational licenses from state to state for military spouses.

The bill will also help alleviate the burden military spouses endure when having to re-register a small business in a new state each time a service member gets relocated to a new military installation.

The Senators announced the bipartisan, bicameral legislation during a Thursday press conference with the support of Second Lady Karen Pence.

This proposed legislation would allow the Department of Defense (DoD) to use defense dollars to help states come up with uniform standards for such licenses.

Over 34% of military spouses work in fields that require a state license in order to practice. These spouses are often required to recertify and pay to recertify this license every time they move between states with their spouse.

Re-certification has become too long, expensive, detrimental to the careers of spouses, and prohibitive financially to military families who could benefit from two household incomes instead of one. This process often affects a service member’s desire to stay in the military long-term.

This legislation would impact spouses working in fields such as health-related occupations and education. 56 percent of licensed military spouses in health-related occupations and 29 percent in education respectively. The fields which could potentially benefit from this legislation include, but are not limited to, the following: teachers, advance practice nurses, physician’s assistants, occupational therapists, dentists, dental hygienists, nutritionists, counselors, social workers, veterinarians, cosmetologists and realtors.

“Military spouses make immense sacrifices and whenever we can find ways to support them, we should act,” said Senator Shaheen. “This legislation will cut through red tape that military spouses face as they practice their licensed professions and move their businesses from state to state. This bipartisan bill is an opportunity to demonstrate to the nation that Congress can still work across the aisle to solve urgent problems.”

“One-in-three military spouses work in a field that requires an occupational license, and too many of them are forced to re-certify every time they move between states. Military families already shoulder heavy loads for our country—they shouldn’t also have to worry about state regulations that prevent wives or husbands from working in their own profession. Our bipartisan bill will ensure those spouses can pursue their careers uninterrupted, even while they’re moving their family from state to state and base to base,” said Senator Cotton.

Andrea Krull joined Senator Shaheen for the press conference to speak about her personal experience. Krull’s husband – a New Hampshire native – serves in the U.S. Navy. Due to his station change, their family has moved multiple times, which has required Krull to re-establish her business as a consultant with every move.

“My husband’s job as an active duty naval officer has caused our family to move every twelve to thirty-six months – we’ve never lived anywhere longer than three years,” said Krull. “Being a small business owner means that every time we move, I must spend time navigating administrative hurdles to ensure that my business is re-established in each new place we live…Moving is hard anyway, having to set up my business every time I move is an extra burden on my to-do list, and it’s a unique burden that disproportionately impacts military spouses and military spouse small business owners.” Krull concluded, “This legislation would allow me to establish my business in one state and maintain that status for the duration of my husband’s military service. It will allow me the opportunity to spend less time navigating administrative hurdles and more time serving my clients, and ultimately providing for my family.”

“One-in-three military spouses work in a field that requires an occupational license, and too many of them are forced to re-certify every time they move between states. Military families already shoulder heavy loads for our country-they shouldn’t also have to worry about state regulations that prevent wives or husbands from working in their own profession. Our bipartisan bill will ensure those spouses can pursue their careers uninterrupted, even while they’re moving their family from state to state and base to base,” said Senator Cotton.

Representatives Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Susan Davis, D-Ca., will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The bill text can be found here.

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