Recertification costs due to PCS can really add up for military spouses that are employed in a career field that requires state licensing or certification. Two senators are working to get some of that money back to military spouses.
Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) have been trying for years to get a tax credit for military spouses that have had to pay fees for licensure and certification when they PCSed with their service members.
Military spouses earn 38 percent less than civilians according to a recent report, due to the hardship of constantly moving. Many spouses experience a length of unemployed or become underemployed because jobs that require licensing or certification are state specific.
Recertification costs can be more than military families can afford, especially with frequent moves.
Senators Casey and Moran are hoping to ease that burden with a tax credit to military spouses to cover recertification costs. They have proposed an amendment to the defense bill that would reimburse military spouses up to $500 for the costs of re-licensure and re-certification that stems from a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to a another state.
Reimbursement for recertification costs would include:
- Application fees to a state board, bar association or other certifying or licensing body.
- Exam fees and registration fees paid to a licensing body.
- Costs of additional coursework required for eligibility for licensing or certification specific to the state, not including the cost of continuing education courses.
- The total amount of reimbursement for recertification costs cannot exceed $500 per PCS.
- Eligibility for reimbursement of recertification costs for spouses would not be limited by the pay grade of the service member.
- Reimbursements would be distributed quarterly.
- The cap on the reimbursement program would be $2 million a year.
There are more than 860,000 military spouses and only 55 percent of them were in the workforce in the past decade. If this passes, it would give many spouses the opportunity to continue their careers after relocation.
The government would also benefit from the program as a recent study by Blue Star Families showed. The report stated that it costs the U.S. economy between $710 million and $1.07 billion annually in lost tax revenue, unemployment benefits and health costs because so many military spouses were not employed in career fields that they otherwise could be without the hardship of moving.
These two senators are working to get recertification costs reimbursed to military spouses so that they can get back in the career field of their choice. This simple act of reimbursement can actually have a huge impact on the economy, as well as at home for military families.
Luckily, they are not the only ones fighting for military spouses. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden started a campaign in 2011, known as Joining Forces, to make it easier for military spouses to gain employment in portable carriers.
They also saw the struggle that military spouses faced with PCSing, especially with recertification costs. Together, they urged governors in every state to take action, whether executive or legislative, to make state licensing for military spouses easier. This month they announced that all 50 states have created a way to help streamline the process of licensing and credentialing military spouses.
The Department of Defense along with state legislators and regulators has developed 3 ways to help military spouses transfer licenses: licensure through endorsement; temporary licensure; and expedited processes for issuing licenses.
Licensure through endorsement can be difficult for military spouses, so a best practice has been developed that allows spouses to show their competency in their occupation through various methods determined by boards such as recent experience and continuing education units.
Temporary licensure is offered by many states that allows military spouses to enter employment while completing state requirements or while awaiting verification of current license, certification or employment history for an endorsement.
An expedited process for issuing licenses is a quick way to get spouses back in the workforce. States have varying ways in which they expedite the process. Washington, for example, allows a board to approve a license based on an application certified by affidavit.
With recertification costs keeping many military spouses out of the workforce, hopefully these initiatives will be able to get them back into it.