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Let Your Voice Be Heard on Military Family Matters

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

While there are many wonderful nonprofit organizations—including AUSA—lobbying in the nation’s capital on behalf of military families, the Congressional Military Family Caucus is made up of elected representatives. They direct legislative and policy action to help improve the lives of military families everywhere.

The caucus held a summit recently at Fort Benning, Ga., to provide military family members as well as active-duty soldiers, retirees and veterans an opportunity to share concerns related to spousal employment, health care and benefits. I was privileged to represent AUSA on the employment panel and have some take-aways to share:

  • License/credential portability continues to be a problem for military spouses. It was interesting to hear from spouses just how difficult the state of Georgia makes the transfer process, especially since Georgia signed on to the licensure compact that is meant to ensure portability from state to state. State government representatives in the audience left the summit knowing they have a lot more work to do to ease license-transfer rules. Additionally, spouses asked if new license-portability laws could include a more standard fee structure among the states. To help with the costs spouses incur with relicensing or recertification, Karen Golden, Deputy Director of Government Relations (military family issues) for the Military Officers Association of America, noted that the Military Spouse Job Continuity Act includes a provision for a tax credit of up to $500 to cover the costs of transferring a license or certification. The bill was introduced in January but is stuck in committee; we can all help it move forward by sending letters to our respective representatives. For more information, go to the MOAA site.
  • Can the application process be made easier for federal positions? Spouses brought up how difficult it can be to complete applications on USAJobs.gov. Plus, we learned from Mark Mills, Fort Benning’s Employment Readiness Program Director, that the Department of the Army uses a different application form, forcing spouses to complete an entirely new application. This seems like an issue we can bring up during the Family Forums at the AUSA Annual Meeting next month. In the meantime, panelists advised those interested in federal employment to take advantage of resources including Military OneSource, the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program, and Employment Readiness Centers on Army installations. 
  • Can the Family and Medical Leave Act be amended to help ensure coverage for military spouses? A young spouse and new mother noted that after moving to Fort Benning, she found her dream job and then got pregnant. She lost her position, however, because FMLA covers only those who have been in their current job for 12 months, or if the employer has 50 employees or more in that geographic area.
  • Guest speaker Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Schroeder, U.S. Army Forces Command, noted that the Army is seeing more and more “geographic” bachelors and bachelorettes as families live in separate locations so that spouses can keep their jobs or avoid the costly and frustrating licensing process. This isn’t a healthy situation for military families, who already make too many sacrifices or for the Army. Spouse employment issues will continue to get attention from Army leadership. You must be your own best advocate—that was my advice to each group our panel spoke with.

You must make your voice heard in our nation’s capital, and there are lots of ways to do this. Now that you know about the Congressional Military Family Caucus, why not like the caucus on Facebook and post your issue directly to our representatives? Out of the hundreds of thousands of military families out there, the caucus has only 4,600 likes. Think of the response we’d get if all of us “liked” the page. Talk about a voting bloc!

Also, join AUSA and other organizations advocating for military families, and share your concerns. We are all your extended voice to our elected leaders. And if you can’t be at AUSA’s annual meeting next month, you can live stream the forums so you can let Army leadership know your concerns and issues. Visit our website a few days before the meeting for the links to stream.