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Shaheen-Cotton Legislation Supporting Military Spouses Included in Committee-Approved Annual Defense Bill

*Shaheen, the Second Highest Ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Worked to Include the Measure Cutting Red Tape for Military Spouses*

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual legislation authorizes national defense objectives for the fiscal year. It will now be considered by the full Senate. U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the second highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, successfully fought for the inclusion of her bipartisan legislation with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), the Portable Certification of Spouses (PCS) Act, which would improve the portability of occupational licenses from state to state for military spouses and streamline residency requirements for military spouses, especially those who operate small businesses, reducing the burden military spouses endure each time a service member gets relocated to a military installation in a new state. Shaheen and Cotton introduced the standalone legislation earlier this month at a press conference with Second Lady Karen Pence, where 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. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) is also a cosponsor of the bill.

The legislation would allow the Department of Defense to use defense dollars to help states come up with universal standards for professional licenses, allowing military spouses to start work soon after they arrive at a new assignment. By making it easier for military spouses to continue their professional careers, the PCS Act is expected to help the Armed Forces retain skilled soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

“Whenever we can find ways to support military spouses, we should act,” said Shaheen. “Military spouse unemployment and underemployment is a significant problem, which is why we need to do all that we can to support those who are entrepreneurs and have professional licenses. By adding this legislation to the defense bill, we’re taking an important step forward in helping military spouses cut through needless red tape as they practice their licensed professions and move their businesses from state to state. I will continue my efforts to support military spouses and will work to grow the bipartisan consensus for this measure as the NDAA is considered by the full Senate.”

“One-in-three military spouses work in a field that requires an occupational license, and too many of them are forced to re-certify every time they move between states. The PCS Act will ensure those spouses can pursue their careers uninterrupted, even while they're moving their family from state to state and base to base. Today, we learned the PCS act is one step closer to becoming law. Relief is coming for our military families,” said Cotton.  

“Family readiness is military readiness," said McSally. "Our legislation removes critical barriers to military spouses fully contributing in the workforce simply because their loved one serves in uniform. We must unleash their full potential, and that's what our legislation will do. This is a critical step to moving it forward.”


Over 34 percent 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. 

The text of the bill can be found here.