News   Reform

DOD Makes Progress in Trans-State Professional License Agreements for Military Spouses

Feb. 24, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The Defense Department — working with state governments — is making it easier for military spouses' professional licenses to be accepted in their new state when service members are transferred, a DOD official said.

Marcus Beauregard, the director of the Defense-State Liaison Office, said that this is particularly important because military families move frequently, and 34% of spouses need licensure reciprocity when they move. 

A service member hugs a woman and child.
Family Greeting
A sailor assigned to the Virginia-class, fast-attack submarine USS Washington greets his family at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., after a deployment, Feb. 11, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alfred A. Coffield
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About 53% of military spouses with professional licenses are in health-related occupations; 28% in education; 4% in crafts and trades; and 15% in other occupations, he told reporters at the Pentagon today.

The number of licenses required by any given state varies, he said. For example, North Carolina has 200 licensed occupations.

Ideally, Beauregard said, changes in state law would include endorsement of current licenses from out of state, temporary licensing, and an expedited application process for military spouses.

Reciprocity is made possible by state compacts — agreements among states that take precedence over individual states' laws. Compacts can allow a licensed person to move from the issuing state and work in another state.

Beauregard noted that compacts and state practices vary.

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A child hugs her mother at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 9, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater
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For example, he said, Arizona has adopted universal licensing, which has expanded license reciprocity to anyone who becomes a state resident. Once a background check is completed and a fee is paid, new residents can obtain a license from Arizona. Florida has a similar process.

Utah has an even more progressive approach, Beauregard said. Since 2012, Utah has allowed transferring military spouses to come into the state to work using the license issued by another state.

Texas has developed a standard of ''substantial equivalency'' for licensed occupations, he said. That means when a military spouse moves to Texas from another state, Texas' appropriate professional board will know if the state that issued the original license is equivalent to the Texas license. If it is, Texas will issue a license to the military spouse without a lot of paperwork or undue delay.

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Xenia Vazquez, a child care provider near Fort Polk, La., gives Jaxon Davis, right, and Andrew Varrasco a little extra attention, March 19, 2019.
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Ohio, on the other hand, provides a temporary license provision, recognizing a license from out of state as good for six years.

There's been a lot of progress on reciprocity, but more work still needs to be done. Beauregard noted. The nurse licensure compact is probably the most progressive, he said. It has been approved in 34 states and is being considered by about 10 others.

''We've received lots of positive feedback from the governors that they want to continue working with us as a result of the letter we sent them,'' he said. 

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper added family readiness as a line of effort in the National Defense Strategy, Beauregard said. As part of that effort, the Defense Department delivered a report to Congress and state governors: ''Military Spouse Licensure: State Best Practices and Strategies for Achieving Reciprocity.''

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Family members prepare to greet deployed service members at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., Oct. 28, 2017.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Oz Suguitan
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DOD has been working on this since 2011, Beauregard said, and a 2017 University of Minnesota study on the results of these efforts found significantly mixed results.

''There were lots of circumstances where [licensure] boards may have interpreted the broad law differently than we had anticipated and really did not make it much easier for military spouses,'' he said. ''And we also found that implementation of those laws was not consistent throughout the states.''

In 2018, the service secretaries wrote to the National Governors Association saying the military spouse licensure and education would be considered as part of mission-basing in the future. ''That got the attention of the states, and we saw a lot more activity happen in 2018 and 2019,'' Beauregard said.

DOD’s Military OneSource website maintains an up-to-date look at what's changing in the states.