Shaheen, Cotton Announce Bipartisan Bill to Support Military Spouses Included in Newly Released Defense Legislation

December 09, 2019

**Shaheen and Cotton Introduced the Bill in May with Support from Second Lady Karen Pence**

(Washington, DC) — U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statements after successfully including their bipartisan legislation in the final version of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Their bipartisan effort will improve the transferability of military spouses’ occupational licenses, and also help alleviate the burden spouses endure if they’re small business owners from having to constantly re-register their businesses as they move from state to state with their families. Senate and House conferees unveiled the FY2020 NDAA – annual defense legislation – this evening. 

“Our military families make enormous sacrifices on behalf of our country, so if we have the opportunity to help make things a little easier for them we need to seize it,” said Shaheen. “Military spouses face serious challenges starting over in new communities, which are exacerbated when they have to jump through hoops to re-establish their professions. This bipartisan legislation is a commonsense fix to a bureaucratic problem that hinders military spouses from practicing their professions or restarting their businesses as they move with their families throughout the country. I appreciate the bipartisan support this effort received to be included in the defense bill. I look forward to seeing this legislation move through Congress and swiftly signed into law.”  

“Military families already shoulder heavy loads for our country, so they shouldn't also have to worry about state regulations that prevent wives or husbands from working in their own profession,” said Cotton. “Our bipartisan bill will ensure those spouses can pursue their careers uninterrupted, even while they're moving their family from state to state and base to base. And now that our bill has been included in this year’s defense bill, I urge Congress to swiftly pass our legislation for the spouses of servicemembers across the United States.” 

Shaheen and Cotton’s legislation would allow the Department of Defense (DoD) to use defense dollars to help states come up with uniform standards for occupational licenses. The bill would also help alleviate the burden military spouses endure when having to re-register a small business in a new state each time a service member gets relocated to a new military installation. Resolving the issue of military spouse licensing is a national security concern, helping alleviate the choice for service members between their career and the career of their spouses. 

Shaheen and Cotton introduced the standalone legislation earlier this year at a press conference with Second Lady Karen Pence. Shaheen highlighted the story of Andrea Krull, whose husband is a Granite Stater, and her personal experience of having to continuously re-establish her business as a consultant with every move. In committee-approved funding legislation, Senator Shaheen secured $4 million to implement the legislation.   

Background: 

Over 34% of military spouses work in fields that require a state license in order to practice. These spouses are often required to recertify and pay to recertify this license every time they move between states with their spouse. Re-certification has become too long, expensive, detrimental to the careers of spouses, and prohibitive financially to military families who could benefit from two household incomes instead of one. This process often effects a service member’s desire to stay in the military long-term.  

This legislation would impact spouses working in fields such as health-related occupations and education. 56 percent of licensed military spouses in health-related occupations and 29 percent in education respectively. The fields which could potentially benefit from this legislation include, but are not limited to, the following: teachers, advance practice nurses, physician’s assistants, occupational therapists, dentists, dental hygienists, nutritionists, counselors, social workers, veterinarians, cosmetologists and realtors.