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Military families are stressed as they struggle to transfer occupational licenses

The frequent moves of US military members can often put a strain on military spouses, especially those with occupational licenses. Earlier this year, President Biden signed a bill into law designed to cut red tape in transferring licenses to a new state, but many military spouses say not much has changed so far.

Michelle Wintering is a speech pathologist whose husband is in the military. Sometimes the family stays in one place for less than a year, and he hasn’t been able to work full-time because of how difficult it is to transfer his license from state to state.

“There is certain coursework required before you can get a license there,” he said. “And then you just have phone calls and emails and paperwork that you have to submit for proof of licensure in the previous state.”

Wintering says he loves what he does, but “the frustrating thing for me is when I have a gap in employment and I want to work.”

And he’s not alone.

Amanda James has a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate Her husband Will is in the Air Force.

“I’ve had five states in the last ten years on my resume,” he told CBS News.

She said that, while she was able to find some work, she was “underemployed,” never able to secure a full-time teaching job.

According to the Department of Defense, about 39% of active duty spouses, more than 130,000 people, need a license for their job and face unemployment or unemployment every time they move.

James lived in Mississippi and Illinois for less than two years. He said he couldn’t get hired in either state because of the red tape surrounding the transfer of his license. Illinois, for example, does not offer expedited transfers for military spouses.

He took a job at a private school in Missouri, where he taught seven subjects and earned only $20,000 a year. James had to walk away from the job due to the amount of stress and the lack of pay.

James says the financial impact of not being able to hand over his license was huge and the family “never got too caught up.”

These struggles can lead to qualified service members — such as Wintering’s husband — leaving the military early, posing a national security risk as a branch. Struggle for recruitment.

To address this, Mr. Biden signed the Military Licensing Relief Act in January. The law is intended to make states accept license transfers, but there is no timeline or plan yet for how to do that.

Rep. Salud Carbajal, a co-sponsor of the bill representing California’s 24th Congressional District, acknowledged the obstacles but said “help is on the way.”

“Let us find out the ironies, implement this legislative program and your life will be easier,” he added.

“We’re trying to make sure that this bill puts in a framework that makes it work in a reciprocal way across the United States,” he said. “States still need to work with our DoD to make sure the program works effectively.”

Rep. Mike Garcia, another cosponsor of the bill who represents California’s 27th District, said individual states are “struggling with how to implement” the new law.

“For everything like this, with such a seismic shift in the way they do business, there’s going to be a change in process. So we have to help them,” Garcia said.

But for some, it is already too late.

James said he had given up trying to get a job as a teacher.

“It makes me think, am I not good enough?” she said. “Didn’t I get enough credentials? Didn’t I get enough credentials? It’s hard.”

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Norah O’Donnell

Norah O'Donnell

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