Military spouses now qualify for some economic relief when they transition a professional license across state lines.
The Coast Guard announced in June the creation of a reimbursement program for spouses who incur certification costs due to a Permanent Change of Station move. According to the Coast Guard’s website, “Qualified re-licensing costs include examination and registration fees that are imposed by the state of the new duty station to secure a license or certification to engage in the same profession the member’s spouse engaged in while in the state of the original duty station.” All service branches recently offered similar-style programs as well.
The Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Charles Ray, says it wasn’t a matter of if the program would happen, but rather a question of how.
“Every dollar in the Coast Guard is important, but this program was equally as important. It was never a question of if we would create it, but how,” he said.
The Arkansas-native has seen an evolution in the makeup of the force since he first graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1981. He says leadership recognizes the need to focus on the entire family.
“The whole idea of spouse employment, childcare or the Coast Guard focusing on supporting the family wasn’t on the radar like it is today,” Ray said. “The challenges associated with spouse employment are a big deal. There are very few single income families out there today and if we don’t find ways to support and accommodate that there’s another working member of the household, we may not have the household. We recognize it.”
The topic is also personal for him. He watched his wife, Donna, encounter her own career struggles.
“My wife has reinvented herself many times. She’s done everything from work retail to work in schools, you name it. She had a well-established profession before we got married and has not been able to go back to that profession since we were married,” he explained.
The announcement of the license and certification reimbursement program for spouses is welcome news for beneficiaries of the change, like Lacey Milligan who recently graduated from nursing school and is now a Registered Nurse at Cape Regional, New Jersey.
“This reimbursement means a lot to me. As an active duty family that sacrifices in many areas of our lives due to our spouse’s obligation to service and duty, it is nice to see the effort being made to help us get back to our own careers and not have to be out money in the process. It is expensive to move your career around and frankly it doesn’t always seem fair. I appreciate the reimbursement program immensely and am grateful that this has been recognized as an important part of PSCing that does affect so many of our active duty families. It is reassuring to know that this is an option for the all the future PCSes,” Milligan said.
For Hillary Laski, an elementary school teacher, the program means she will be able to remain in her profession. Her family recently executed orders to Coast Guard Station Oxford, Maryland.
“Receiving reimbursement when I PCS means that I can continue to follow my passion and help educate the future generations. All states have different tests and requirements that they require to get a teaching certificate. By receiving this reimbursement, I will be able to continue in my chosen job field without an added financial burden,” she said.
The Coast Guard also has a plan for combating spouse unemployment by addressing other barriers, such as childcare costs. Currently, the childcare subsidy doesn’t reflect the higher cost of living in certain cities within the same state.
“We’ve taken some significant steps to streamline the child subsidy program. The current funds for this program are based on the state, but very soon the Coast Guard will be able to give the subsidy based on the zip code,” Ray said.
While mission readiness is something that is frequently discussed by all branches of service, family readiness has garnered attention as an essential part of overall readiness in recent years.
“What we’ve done since day one of Adm. Shultz coming on as the commandant and since Master Chief Vanderhaden became our master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard, is made people the focal point of everything we talk about. People are what makes the Coast Guard ready and able to do its missions. Families are not a luxury. They don’t raise their right hand but they also serve. By paying attention to families, we are in fact increasing readiness of our Coast Guard to serving the nation,” Ray added.
The new program is retroactive to Dec. 12, 2017. Visit the U.S. Coast Guard website for more information on filing for the reimbursement.