Are you a military spouse who has a career that requires a state license? According to Military.com, about one-third of military spouses have careers that require a professional license. So many of us military spouses are nurses, teachers, attorneys, and other kinds of professionals who must transfer their license every time they move state to state with their active duty military spouse. This is a huge deal for all of us. So many of us military spouses give up our professions and either don’t work or enter another, probably lower paying line of work because the transfer process wears us down after a few moves. It’s a story I hear frequently, and I bet you do, too.
I’ll use myself as an example: Since graduating in February 2018, just 11 months ago, I’ve taken the national RN licensing exam, registered in the state where my husband was stationed so I could work for a few months, and now I am in the process of re-registering in another state, where we will live for the next 10 months. In fact, I’m registering in the neighboring state too to expand my work opportunities. After we move again, I will register in a 4th state in 3 years. Every time I re-register, I have to pay upwards of $170 per state and spend dozens of hours filling out forms, driving to be finger printed and have my background checked, and dealing with silly bureaucratic headaches, all because my husband serves and, therefore, we move frequently. Yes we move a lot, but our situation is totally normal for military families. This. Is. Totally. Normal.
Thanks to an initiative begun by Michelle Obama & Dr. Jill Biden, called Joining Forces, all 50 states have professional license transfer policies that benefit military spouses who are transferring state to state. In my experience with nursing boards in three states, unfortunately we still have to pay the hundreds of dollars and jump through the bureaucracy hoops, BUT our licenses are expedited and placed at the front of the line to be approved. To receive the benefit, I email my husband’s Orders to a designated representative on the state board of nursing who handles the military-affiliated applicants. Official military Orders should include the spouse’s name as part of the relocation process if the spouse is relocating with the service member. State board websites have specific instructions for military spouses to follow, so I recommend targeting that list (there’s usually a litany of check lists for other kinds of applicants – ignore them!). If you cannot find the list, call!
The Joining Forces Initiative ended with the turnover of administrations, but the military community created a Military State Policy Source, which works with states to create policies that assist us mobile military spouses. There is more information on their website about what is being done presently to assist military spouses with professional licenses, as well as information about how they are assisting the broader military community. I spent some time today clicking through their site – you should check it out!
It would be wonderful if more state politicians wanted to help military families by cutting some of the state fees and bureaucracy we face when transferring licenses. States like California, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, Florida, Rhode Island, and many others have a HUGE constituency of military families, yet they seem to rarely consider us. Perhaps they view us as a faceless group of folks who only stay a short time before moving on … but wouldn’t it be nice if we were more than that to more people, especially the folks who benefit from our tax dollars?
Maybe I’ll write a few emails to my new state representatives and politicians 😉 I’ve got some time before I’m state licensed and able to work! May as well use it for some Debbie Do-Gooder kinda stuff.