Over the past few years, as we’ve traveled the country speaking with our men and women in uniform and their families, we’ve been amazed by all of the ways they find to serve our country every single day. They’re the troops who risk their lives to keep us safe; the veterans who continue to serve long after they’ve hung up their uniform; the military spouses who always manage to snap into action for their communities, even though they’re already holding down full-time jobs and keeping their households running all alone while a loved one is deployed overseas.
But while our troops are sacrificing so much to serve our country around the world, too often, they struggle to find the kind of jobs they deserve when they return home, even if they’ve learned high-tech, high-demand skills and demonstrated them for years in the military. They’re Army medics who can’t get jobs as EMTs, welders from the Navy who can’t land a manufacturing job, and convoy drivers who can’t get hired to drive a semi — all because they didn’t have a civilian license or credential that reflects the depth of their experience in the military.
And our military spouses face similar challenges. Every couple of years, their families are given orders to move from base to base, often across state lines. But when they do, if their job requires a professional license like teaching or nursing, they often end up stuck in a maze of bureaucracy and paperwork that forces them to wait months or pay hundreds of dollars in fees just to continue the careers they love.
All of these delays and frustrations come on top of everything we’ve already asked of our troops and military spouses — to risk their lives in combat zones, spend months away from their loved ones, and pick up and move their lives across the country. After they do all of that, we’re also asking them to repeat months of training for skills they’ve already mastered. And we’re asking their spouses to put their careers on hold and miss out on the paychecks their families need.
This is unacceptable, and it’s time for us to step up and do something about it.
Fortunately, here in Nevada, your state Legislature has a bill pending that will address these issues and help our veterans and military spouses get hired for jobs they’re already qualified for. AB 349 would authorize service members or veterans licensed in another state to receive a professional license by endorsement. This won’t just reduce bureaucratic headaches for them — it will help improve financial security for so many of our military families, give our veterans an opportunity to build their careers, and help them create a better future for their children.
So we need you to make your voices heard. Talk to your state legislators and the leaders in your communities. Make sure they know that here in Nevada, you want to make a real, concrete difference in the lives of our military families.
If you do this, your state will be joining a growing list of states that are addressing this issue. Since last year, the number of states that have passed legislation to support our military spouses has tripled from 11 to 36. And more and more states are supporting our veterans as well — since February, 13 states have passed laws that help our veterans find work. We hope that Nevada will join them.
And let’s be clear — this is not simply about patriotism and repaying our debt to our servicemen and women and their families. This is also about putting highly skilled individuals to work in communities all across Nevada. It’s about strengthening your hospitals and schools and making your businesses more productive and dynamic. And with the Iraq War over and the war in Afghanistan winding down, it’s about helping all of our men and women in uniform transition back to civilian life, no matter which state they call home.
So with all of that on the line, we have to redouble our efforts and do everything we can to make sure our troops, veterans and military spouses can get to work and provide for their families. That starts here in Nevada, with each of you making your voices heard. And if we do this — if we all join forces to support the military families in Nevada — we can truly serve all of them as well as they have served us.
Michelle Obama is the first lady of the United States. Jill Biden is the wife of Vice President Joe Biden.