The Defense Department is pushing state governments to adopt "interstate compacts" to make it easier for spouses to obtain professional licenses, such as those required for physical therapy.
In the past, military spouses in careers that require a professional license, such as teaching or nursing, needed to meet benchmarks for their state-specific license before going back to work after moving to a new state. But the process can be lengthy and expensive, forcing spouses to put their careers on hold.
Since 2008, the department State Liaison office's top goal for military spouse career issues was convincing all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws easing professional licensing restrictions for military spouses through license reciprocity programs, fee reductions or temporary licenses.
Now, with the signing of a New York state law last month that will go into effect early next year, all 50 states and the District have such a set of rules on the books.
Despite that success, standards across states are still inconsistent and often come with large fees. Pentagon officials said Wednesday that they are turning their attention to developing interstate compacts for individual professions, such as physical therapists.
"We see this as an opportunity not just for physical therapists. We see this as an opportunity to impact the other interstate compacts that are ongoing right now," said Marcus Beauregard, who heads department's state liaison office. "We're working with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and the National Center for Interstate Compacts on specifically an interstate compact for physical therapists."
While all 50 states now have military-spouse specific licensing rules, 42 offer some kind of temporary license, while 37 offer an expedited licensing process, he said. The laws typically ignore some high-demand professions, such as teachers and lawyers, while offering inconsistent help for other careers, such as nursing.
Beauregard said his office is working with researchers to examine the current state licensing rules to see if they are effective.
"We're working now with the University of Minnesota to do a research study and test what the states have actually done," he said. "So that we can come back, basically, with some feedback to the states and let them know what we have found, and if we found that perhaps their change wasn't enough of a change."
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at email@example.com.