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Reform would give military spouses more job options


Military families typically must move every two to three years on average, a nomadic lifestyle poses daunting employment challenges for the non-military spouse.

Some employers are hesitant about hiring military spouses because they know they’ll be leaving sooner or later. Such frequent moves make it difficult to stay on a consistent career path. With up to 34% of military spouses working in a profession requiring licenses, advocates say the confusing maze of state and local occupational licensing regulations is another obstacle. 

“Military spouses shouldn’t have to constantly jump through duplicative hoops just to be allowed to work,” said Shoshana Weissmann, a resident fellow at R Street, a Washington, D.C.-based free-market public policy institute.

Two California lawmakers, both military veterans, have a new bill that would give military spouses with valid licensing in one state reciprocity in another when their spouse is deployed there on military orders. 

“Our men and women in uniform and their families sacrifice greatly for this nation and deserve all of the support they can get,” said Republican Rep. Mike Garcia. “Our legislation will help military spouses maintain employment and have smoother transitions when moving on military orders.”

Mr. Garcia and Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal are leading the bipartisan effort in the House to address the longstanding employment hurdle. Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

“The support and sacrifices of military spouses help keep our country safe. There is no reason they should have to choose between job security and being with their family when they’re reassigned to a new location,” said Mr. Carbajal.

Military spouses were facing a 22% unemployment rate and a 26% wage gap compared to their civilian counterparts before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While there is some uncertainty about how much the military spouse unemployment rate changed due to the pandemic, there is little doubt it has increased,” said the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The American Dental Association (ADA) is backing the licensing relief effort in Congress. The trade group said the bill would enhance dental services in military communities which sometimes face a lack of health professionals.

“It is not uncommon for civilian dentists to be spouses of service members,” ADA officials wrote in a letter to Mr. Lee. “By simply having a license in good standing according to the requirements in the jurisdiction that issued the license … a military spouse could receive professional license reciprocity and easily resume the practice of dentistry.”

Officials with R Street say they have been fighting for occupational licensing reform at the state and federal level for several years. 

“Helping to clear these burdens for families who serve our country in a narrow way like this, while allowing states to lead on broader reforms, is just the right approach,” Ms. Weissmann said.

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