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We Must Make It Easier for Military Spouses to Get to Work

March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020
By Nathan Callahan

For military spouses, frequent moves and regulatory red tape can make it very difficult to land and keep a job in their chosen field. Thankfully, this is a problem that’s getting needed attention at the highest levels of the federal government. Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, through its “Hiring Our Heroes” initiative, hosted an event in Tampa, Florida, to address this widespread but often ignored challenge of military life.

Among the speakers and attendees was the Second Lady, Karen Pence, who talked about the importance of hiring military spouses to both support the military community and to gain excellent workers. Thanking her own hardworking assistant, who is a Navy spouse, the Second Lady said that she understood many of the issues facing military spouses, noting that “military spouses are disproportionately affected by occupational licensing” and describing the issue as “my pet peeve.” The Second Lady described her own work with governors across the country in creating licensing compacts for military spouses that allow states to continue to raise revenue from licensing fees, while allowing military spouses to get to work quicker. “We need solutions for these military spouses,” Mrs. Pence said. “We need a place where you can go and feel fulfilled.”

It’s clear that military spouses face employment challenges—while employment rates are at historic low in this country, Laurie Todd Smith, who directs the Women’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor pointed out at the event that “it is estimated that military spouse unemployment is up to 24%.”

At the Goldwater Institute, we could not agree more that military spouses need to be freed from the onerous licensing requirements that often stand between hardworking military spouses and their ability to stay in the careers of their choice. As Goldwater Investigative Journalist Mark Flatten recently noted from Department of Defense reports, “military spouses in licensed professions routinely lose six to nine months of income when they transition from state to state”.

Recently, several states have begun to remove these unnecessary barriers to work. Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Utah have all passed Goldwater Institute-inspired legislation recognizing licenses universally. Ohio and Florida have passed legislation giving licensing recognition to military personnel and their spouses, recognizing and addressing this important issue.

But in other states, military spouses repeatedly find themselves waiting to be licensed, losing valuable time before they have to move again. We believe that the best way to break down this barrier to work is for states to recognize out-of-state licenses and remove unnecessary licensing requirements that will bring benefits to the military spousal community and the country as a whole. With luck, more states will follow in the footsteps of a growing number of states by scaling back their licensure requirements and introducing universal recognition laws that might help alleviate the Second Lady’s “pet peeve.”

You can watch the Hiring Our Heroes event for yourself here on the initiative’s Facebook page.

Nathan Callahan is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.



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