“Military spouses deserve the opportunity to find meaningful jobs and fulfilling careers as they serve our Nation. It has been an honor to lead this effort to better elevate, encourage, and recognize the resilient strength of our Nation’s military spouses and the unique challenges they face. They are great assets to our American workforce and do so much for the strength and readiness of our Armed Forces. We must continue to do all that we can to better improve and enhance their quality of life.” —Second Lady Karen Pence
In September of 2018 at Fort Carson, Colorado, Second Lady Karen Pence launched an awareness campaign to elevate and encourage our Nation’s military spouses and recognize their unique employment and career challenges. Mrs. Pence has since traveled the country and world meeting with military spouses, business leaders, and government officials to learn more about these challenges and advocate for more fulfilling career opportunities for military spouses.
Typically moving every two to three years due to their service member being frequently relocated, military spouses face the potential for relicensing or looking for a new job with each move. Currently, one third of military spouses work in fields that require a state license in order to practice and face a 24% unemployment rate. Frequent moves and licensing change requirements have led to significant gaps in employment and expenses when navigating differing state licensing laws. Mrs. Pence has continued to address the importance of occupational licensing reforms for military spouses and how these challenges effect the career options and opportunities for military spouses.
Over the past two years, the Second Lady’s Military Spouse campaign has consisted of:
RAISING AWARENESS ON UNEMPLOYEMENT CHALLENGES by engaging businesses, nonprofits, and local communities on the issue.
- Led more than 80 meetings with military spouses, military service members, veterans, nonprofits, community leaders, government leaders, and business leaders to address the quality and quantity of employment opportunities for military spouses.
- Convened a meeting with the three Military Service Secretaries and Coast Guard leadership to encourage the services to prioritize programs for military spouses and fully implement existing policies designed for military spouses.
- Worked with Department of Defense to implement a new measure to provide reimbursement for costs incurred due to relicensing after a military move.
- Advocates and promotes research studying military spouse employment and military families.
- Received the American Legion Auxiliary Public Spirit Award in 2019 in recognition of her efforts to raise awareness about the service of America’s military service members and their families.
- Held 11 listening sessions, while crafting her initiative, with spouses representing every service branch and rank, from the spouses of newly enlisted service members to the spouses of the country’s most senior military leaders.
- Visited 36 military installations and met with thousands of military spouses across the U.S. and world.
- Worked to educate military spouses about new measures enacted to improve the quality of life for military spouses following President Trump’s December 2019 signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
- New measures included a 3.1% pay raise for service members; doubled the relicensing and recertification reimbursement costs from $500 to $1,000 for when a military spouse has a permanent change of station; and changed residency requirements so now military spouses can retain their state of residency for business purposes, if they move out of the state as a result of a change of station.
- Visited six military spouse-owned businesses from across the county to highlight the increasing number of military spouse entrepreneurs starting and growing businesses across the country. Mrs. Pence also met with Small Business Administration (SBA) representatives and heard more on how SBA’s programs have helped military spouse business owners in starting and growing their business.
- Spearheaded a virtual SBA Military Spouse Entrepreneur Summit to provide military spouses a free webinar offering a comprehensive overview of all of the resources the SBA offers for military spouses looking to begin or expand a business.
- Raised awareness about the increasing number of successful military spouse entrepreneurs and encouraged prospective military spouse entrepreneurs to utilize existing resources available to help spouses start a business.
- Spoken to spouses to help raise awareness about the many federal resources available to them such as:
- the President’s Executive Order
- Department of Defense’s Military OneSource website that provides a variety of resources for military spouses and families
- the Department of Labor’s online map created to provide current information about licensing laws in all 50 states
- the SBA’s programs offered to help military spouses launch a business
- Hosted two summits with business and organization leaders at the White House to work on military spouse employment solutions.
- 46 businesses and organizations joined the first summit held in May 2019.
- 57 businesses and organizations attended the second summit held in November 2019.
- Collaborated with LinkedIn to expand a military spouse program to Coast Guard spouses.
- Served as the honorary co-chair of the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Employment Working Group and helped launch the working group’s white paper entitled “A Collective Effort: Workforce Development Solutions to Empower the 21st Century Military Spouse.”
- Participated in President Trump’s development and signing of an Executive Order to address military spouse hiring within the federal government.
- Worked with the Department of Defense to ensure more federal agencies join the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), a program designed to pair military spouses seeking employment with partnering employers looking to recruit, hire, and train military spouses.
- Addressed governors at the National Governors Association Luncheon at the Vice President’s Residence on ways their state can help military spouse employment issues.
- In 2019, 19 states adopted significant legislation to address challenges military spouses face obtaining licenses as they move. This year, ten states have already undertaken similar legislative reforms.
- Joined U.S. Senators Tom Cotton and Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Representatives Jim Banks and Susan Davis in May 2019 to announce the Portable Certification (PCS) Act to address challenges military spouses face with licensing as well as moving businesses between states. The measure was included in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act thanks in part to the Second Lady’s efforts.