WASHINGTON–A coalition of non-profit and private sector organizations including Blue Star Families, The National Military Spouse Network, The Association of the United States Army, Women Veterans Interactive Foundation, Credential Engine, and Merit International, Inc., announced this week at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. the formation of an alliance to accelerate the adoption of technology and practices to enable military reciprocity by and between states. Named ASPIRE (Alliance for States Providing Interoperable REciprocity), this coalition will facilitate states’ support for service members and families with interoperable verified digital credentials.
“That’s why last year I signed a bipartisan bill to make it easier for all Kansans – including those serving in the military – to obtain licenses they’ve already earned. Other states should follow suit, and the ASPIRE announcement is a step in the right direction.”
More than one in five Americans works in an industry that requires an occupational license. For the spouses of service members however, that figure jumps to one in three. Through no fault of their own, these spouses are uniquely disenfranchised by laws restricting out-of-state recognition of such licenses. That’s because nearly 15% of military spouses move across state lines in any given year, compared to just 1.1% of civilian spouses.
16 states have passed laws that in some form mandate or enable reciprocity for military families possessing a state-issued credential – yet no central platform has up until this point existed to enable interstate recognition and cooperation. The aim of ASPIRE is to make obtaining a license in a state to which military personnel and their families are deployed easier. The stakes are high; When reciprocity is not available, many spouses of servicemembers are forced to abandon their profession, secure a less desirable and underpaying job, or receive unemployment assistance.
“As the daughter of a Purple Heart recipient, I know the importance of knocking down the barriers that prevent military families from joining the workforce,” said Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. “That’s why last year I signed a bipartisan bill to make it easier for all Kansans – including those serving in the military – to obtain licenses they’ve already earned. Other states should follow suit, and the ASPIRE announcement is a step in the right direction.”
Support for potential solutions to address these concerns, such as the implementation of digital licenses and interstate professional license reciprocity, is widespread. A national survey conducted in September found that voters support allowing military families to use their professional licenses in any state (84%). They also broadly support the use of technology to allow licensed people to use digital versions of their professional licenses (73%).
Occupational licenses are hardwon only after investing months of retraining and compliance. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia require that out-of-state teacher candidates take additional assessments. Many states likewise mandate hundreds of hours of retraining for professions as varied as optometrists, building contractors, travel agents, pest control workers, landscapers, or residential painters. These burdensome licensing requirements create massive redundancies for military families, who experience a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) every two to three years on average.
“We need to eliminate as many hurdles as possible for those courageous military families who support the men and women that keep us all safe,” shared Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. “In Mississippi, we are working hard to establish reciprocity for those who come to our great state as a result of that mission. We also applaud the private sector leaders who are pursuing innovative means to make those moves more frictionless. It is important that we all work together to support those that protect freedom here and abroad!”
“Merit allows people to be deployed to their highest and best use, reducing bureaucratic overhead, and ensuring integrity and accountability,” said Tomer Kagan, CEO and Co-Founder of Merit. “We have the technology, the will, and the law on our side. Now is the time to act.“
To learn more about ASPIRE, Merit, or how you can help demand interoperable reciprocity for military families, please visit Merits.com/ASPIRE.
About ASPIRE: Alliance for States Providing Interoperable Reciprocity
A national coalition facilitating states’ support for service members and families with interoperable verified digital credentials. Merit is the first technology company to facilitate universal license recognition – cutting red tape, speeding up the hiring process, and propelling economic competitiveness.
Merit is the interoperable ecosystem for all digital credentials issued by trusted organizations. The platform allows everyone to access, track, and organize their licenses and credentials in real-time. Merit works with more than 1,000 organizations for professional licensing, occupational regulation, workforce development, emergency services, and other digital credentialing needs.