December 12, 2019

The average military family moves every two to three years, picking up everything and getting adjusted to new neighborhoods, new schools, and new daily lives. And for military spouses, these frequent relocations can mean major disruptions in their careers. Those who work in fields that require occupational licenses often have to spend thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to continue doing their jobs in their new state—jobs they’re already licensed to do in another state.

But the Goldwater Institute believes you shouldn’t have to pursue yet another government permission slip just to keep doing a job you’re already licensed to perform. Today, we’re announcing a new initiative to break down barriers to work for military families, and starting with the release of two new Goldwater Institute reports, we’re sharing the stories of those men and women who are held back by government’s licensing red tape and explaining how to streamline the process to get them back to work as soon as possible after they move to a new state.

Dereliction of Duty: Military Spouses Struggle to Earn A Living Despite ‘Feel-Good’ Licensing Laws

For his new report Dereliction of Duty: Military Spouses Struggle to Earn A Living Despite ‘Feel-Good’ Licensing Laws, Goldwater Institute National Investigative Journalist Mark Flatten spoke with more than a dozen military spouses who have run up against challenges in continuing in their careers upon moving. The need to become relicensed in their new home state can lead to some difficult decisions, as some spouses feel they must put their careers to the side to shoulder the frequent moves and short-term deployments. “I love my husband’s heart for service and I love that he wants to serve his country, and I want to support him in that,” said Elizabeth Jamison, a lawyer married to a Navy commander and pilot. “But sometimes it does feel like that means I have to completely sacrifice my own career aspirations.” And for those spouses who do choose to continue in their careers, they share similar frustrations in attempting to navigate state licensing laws—even in places that claim to have policies friendly to military spouses.

It is not surprising, then, the unemployment rate for military spouses is about six times greater than that of the civilian workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of People Analytics. About one-third of military spouses are working part-time jobs, but many of them say they would prefer full-time work.

Breaking Down Barriers to Work for Military Families

Clearly, we have a military family employment problem, but the Goldwater Institute has a solution to help military spouses keep working: the Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act. Goldwater Director of National Litigation Jon Riches explains in his new report Breaking Down Barriers to Work for Military Families that the Goldwater-drafted model bill “recognizes that military members and their families do not forget how to practice their trade or profession when they cross state lines. By recognizing licenses obtained in other states upon relocating, and by counting military training and experience toward state occupational licensing requirements, this measure provides much needed relief to those impacted by military service who are just trying to earn an honest living.” Earlier this year, Arizona became the first state to recognize out-of-state occupational licenses, and other states should follow suit, particularly to help the military families who are hit especially hard by licensing restrictions.

Military spouses stand beside their serving family members and support them as they work to protect and defend our country. We need to stand up for them, too—and the Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act is an important way to do that. For more information, and to share your own story about how occupational licensing has affected you, please visit goldwaterinstitute.org/breakingbarriers/.

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