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New legislation for military spouses licensing, certifications

According to the Virginia Summit on Military Spouse Employment, the unemployment rate among military spouses is 28 percent and military spouse under-employment is at 38 percent.

According to the Virginia Summit on Military Spouse Employment, the unemployment rate among military spouses is 28 percent and military spouse under-employment is at 38 percent. South Carolina recently proposed new legislation making it easier for military spouses to expedite the process of transferring their certifications from state-to-state. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Sean Sweeney)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- A military family arrives at their new duty station, eager for their next Air Force adventure.

After settling in, the service member’s spouse goes to apply for a new job only to find out they need to get recertified to work in this state, a process which can take several months to a year.

According to the Virginia Summit on Military Spouse Employment, the unemployment rate among military spouses is 28 percent, which is higher than the national or any state average.

The study also indicated that 38 percent of military spouses reported being under-employed.

“Spouse employment is a readiness issue,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, installation management assistant chief of staff, during the 2017 Virginia Summit on Military Spouse Employment.

Research conducted by the Department of Defense states a spouse’s influence is the top factor affecting military retention and retirement.

Military spouses indicated that having to put their careers on hold is a significant factor in encouraging their significant other to leave the military, with two-thirds stating the military has negatively affected their career.

“In some cases it has been difficult,” said Courtney Hammond, military spouse. “As a certified nursing assistant in Kentucky … the minute they found out my husband was military, they cut my hours because they thought that meant I couldn't work as much.”

South Carolina ranks 12th nationally for the highest percentage of active duty military members with civilian spouses.

A recent DoD survey revealed that licensing boards polled have done little or nothing to promote awareness of military spouse accommodation.

The Supplement to the South Carolina Military Base Task Force Strategic Plan recommended the passage of legislation to expedite licenses for military spouses in career fields they believe should lead the way for all professional licensing.

“I think every state should do it, and it should encompass CNAs, nurses, teachers or any job that requires a certification,” said Hammond. “Because the minute we left Kentucky I would have had to retake all of my classes, it wasn’t even just retaking a test for me.”

Hammond also said that it would have taken approximately one year to recomplete her certifications, and the average duty assignment for active duty military members is only two years.

“It’s difficult for me to see military spouses so discouraged from finding work,” said Hammond. “It is out there. You just have to really push at it.”