An article published on The Wall Street Journal detailed the hardships military spouses must face when battling New York’s licensing requirements for multiple occupations that require a state license. Because of the paperwork backlog in Albany, spouses often lose years of income or are burdened by the huge costs of required courses which they have already taken in another state.
Michael Richter, chairman of the Military and Justice Affairs Committee at the New City Bar Association and Richard Schneider, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, took a long look at the dilemma and shared their findings.
According to the writers, New York’s Labor Department lists over 120 occupations that require a state license. Types of professions listed included dental assistants, massage therapists, barbers and security guards.
Now if you take into account that a military family typically moves every two or three years, a military spouse may go without a steady job for the length of their tour. This can cause a grave financial hardship on the family.
The Wall Street Journal reported that because of this, 47 other states have passed some form of law to recognize equivalent out-of-state occupational licenses for military spouses. This allows them to seek employment and work as soon as possible when they arrive at their new duty station.
In Richter and Schneider’s opinion, it is time for New York to do the same thing. The New York Board of Examiners has already done something similar for military spouses who are lawyers transferring from out-of-state. By doing so, it has expedited the process so that they can practice law with minimal downtime.
The Military Officers Association of American and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families analyzed the results of a 2014 survey that took into account the cumulative economic impact on military spouse having to move and obtain new licensure. Their findings and reports from the Pentagon found that 53% of military families are dual-income households, meaning the barrier for military spouses was a significant hindrance and burdened the family in several ways.
Other studies noted that in addition to the licensure issues, it was found that military spouses also make 25% less in wages that their civilian peers. This occurred even when factoring in that spouses were highly educated and their frequent moves were explainable.
Although the New York Senate passed a bill in 2014 recognizing an equivalent out-of-state licensing program so that a military spouse’s process would be expedited, it never came to fruition. The Wall Street Journal described it as a good start that was then languished in committee in the Assembly.
To give a face to the story, the authors told us about Keliann Luley. Although she is a registered massage therapist in California, she has been unable to get her license in New York since moving with her husband, who was transferred to Fort Hamilton in 2013. Much to her amazement, although she practiced for over 20 years in California, she must pay $3,000 in New York to complete courses that equal the experience she already has. This hardship has cost her family approximately $46,000 of annual income. It’s led the couple to consider things once unthinkable in the past; living apart in two different states or the service member retiring from the Army after almost 20 years of service.
This is just one experience of the thousands that participated in the surveys and research done by Syracuse University and MOAA. Because this problem affects national military readiness, it is time for New York to step up and do its part in removing unnecessary barriers and strengthen the well-being of military families.