Proposal Would Reimburse Military Spouses for Some License Fees

Two military spouses practice introductions as part of the "Interviewing Basics" session during the Spouse Career Explosion March 13 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force/Sara Vidoni) | By Amy Bushatz

Military spouses who are transferred across state lines with their service member could be reimbursed by the Defense Department for at least some of the cost of getting a new professional license, thanks to a measure in an annual Defense Department policy bill.

Currently, military spouses are responsible for all costs stemming from professional license regulations, such as getting a state-specific teaching certificate, taking a state's bar exam or receiving a specific state's nursing license.

As a result, applications, tests and license fees can costs families thousands of dollars after every military move.

The new measure, included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), gives the Defense Department and Coast Guard permission to reimburse up to $500 of those fees.

Military spouse career advocates hailed the measure as a major step by Congress toward better supporting military families.

"Anything that facilitates an opportunity to make life easier for military spouses to stay in their desired industry ... is a step in the right direction," said Elizabeth O'Brien, who directs spouse programs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's nonprofit foundation, Hiring our Heroes. "I think it's fantastic."

Brooke Goldberg, head of military spouse programs at the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), agreed. About half of the spouses MOAA has surveyed are in career fields that require a professional license, she said, adding that helping military families cover that cost just makes sense.

"It's taken us a long time to get spouse licensure reimbursement," she said. "It's necessary and right."

The reimbursement measure was originally offered by Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican.

"Military spouses wear their own patches of service and share a true sense of duty to our country," Stefanik said in a statement to "Military spouses serve too, and this update will help alleviate unnecessary stress and expenses, help ease the transition, and will give these spouses and their families some deserved predictability."

To be eligible for the payment, spouses must have received a new license due to a permanent change of station (PCS) move, and that new license must be in their existing career field, according to the legislation.

The bill, which still must be passed by the full House and Senate and signed by the president, does not dictate how spouses should apply for the reimbursement or a date by which the policy could be in place.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at