As the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) process rolls forward, several bills designed to improve military family readiness are being considered for possible inclusion. MOAA and The Military Coalition – a group of more than 30 military and veteran advocacy organizations representing a combined membership of more than 5.5 million – recently endorsed H.R. 7112, the Military Spouse Career Education Act.
This bill would expand the current licensure reimbursement program to cover continuing education units and allow eligible military spouses to use the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) program for both national testing and continuing education units. The Senate Armed Services Committee incorporated this legislation into its draft of the FY 21 NDAA. MOAA is actively advocating for this language to make it in the final version of the bill.
“Servicemember spouses constantly uproot their lives, families, and careers to meet the needs of the military,” said Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the Northern Mariana Islands’ delegate to Congress. “I introduced the Military Spouse Career Education Act to provide them more support in securing portable licenses and other government-recognized credentials. Spouses can achieve their professional goals faster under my bill, which covers the costs of exams granting college credit and additional training they may need to relicense when their families relocate.”
Finding solutions to military spouse unemployment is a top legislative priority for MOAA and The Military Coalition. Expanding programs that are proven successful is a key strategy.
Education is foundational to improving meaningful career opportunities for military spouses. The MyCAA program provides educational scholarships for military spouses looking to start a career. A 2019 RAND report shows this program is effective for military spouse employment and has improved retention rates among servicemembers.
The MyCAA program originally covered more degree areas for spouses of servicemembers in all ranks, but because of budget constraints, the program was scaled back to cover only certain ranks and degree areas. MOAA continues to find solutions to expand MyCAA, including this legislation, which would expand the program to allow coverage of national testing and continuing education units. Both of these areas are critical to helping military spouses maintain their careers.
Approximately one-third of working military spouses are in a licensed occupation. The financial burden associated with getting relicensed after every PCS move forced some spouses to reconsider their career. To mitigate the financial burden, reimbursement for costs incurred to get relicensed due to a PCS move became law with the FY 18 NDAA. MOAA voiced concern when implementation was delayed, successfully advocated for an increase in reimbursement amount, and identified gaps for military spouses moving from overseas that have since been resolved.
The program has been in place for over a year, allowing many military spouses to keep a career on the move. However, many military spouses still must shell out hundreds of dollars to retake continuing education units recognized by their new state. H.R. 7112 will allow these units to be covered by licensure reimbursement funds.