Improved spouse licensure laws and military-friendly school policies top the 2023 priorities for the Defense-State Liaison Office (DSLO), which works to alleviate barriers resulting from military life and harmonize the differences in state and federal laws.
Established in 2004, DSLO has worked with state policymakers to enact over 800 bills to improve life for those in the military community. Each year, the agency publishes a list of legislative priorities; the 10 key issue areas for 2023:
- Enhanced military spouse licensure portability
- Military spouse occupational licensure access
- Licensing compacts
- Purple Star Schools program
- Defining armed forces in state policy
- Open enrollment flexibility
- Military and family life counselor (MFLC) licensure waiver
- Child abuse identification and reporting
- Concurrent juvenile jurisdiction
- Licensure exemptions for military family child care (FCC) providers
DSLO’s efforts at the state level have led to 33 states enacting supportive licensure laws and providing expedited processes to achieve a baseline of a license within 30 days with minimal upfront paperwork from licensed military spouses.
DSLO, in conjunction with licensing boards, has developed eight interstate compacts (nursing, advanced practice registered nursing, emergency medical services, physical therapy, audiology/speech-language pathology, licensed professional counseling, occupational therapy, and psychology). At least 44 states have signed on to at least one of these compacts, with 35 states signed on to three or more compacts.
The office is continuing work to develop compacts for teaching, social work, dentistry/dental hygiene, massage therapy, cosmetology/barbering, school psychology, and dietetic nutrition.
Child Care Concerns
Two of DSLO’s 2023 priorities, MFLC licensure waiver and licensure exemptions for military family child care providers, expand their work in this space.
MOAA endorsed legislation designed to provide MFLCs with license portability and is pleased to see a provision in the House version of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act that will provide this needed support for an important resource.
The services need approximately 1,400 FCC providers; as of now, it has about half that number.
States require additional licensure for off-installation FCC providers, which is duplicative of the military service FCC certification process. DSLO recommends all states follow best practices such as those exercised in Alaska and Oklahoma, which provide exemptions for state licensing requirements.
Supporting Military-Connected Students
Thirty-two states have the Purple Star Schools program, a statewide recognition initiative designed to emphasize the importance of military children with school transition and to recognize the value of military service and civic responsibility. Advanced enrollment (37 states) allows military-connected students to electronically enroll and register in school based on orders rather than requiring a physical address.
Military families are at a disadvantage when it comes to enrollment options available to their children due to frequent PCS moves. This can be alleviated by providing military families with increased flexibility through access to district open enrollment policies, yet only five states have established this policy to date.
[MOAA WEBINAR RECORDING: Learn More About DSLO and State-Level Advocacy]
Across the spectrum, states continue to inconsistently define “armed forces” or “uniformed services” throughout state code or law. Title 10 defines “armed forces” as Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard, and defines “uniformed services” as the armed forces plus the USPHS and NOAA commissioned corps. DSLO is urging states to establish a consistent approach to defining these groups to ensure all uniformed service families are equally represented under all state laws.
MOAA members can support DSLO’s efforts by joining their local chapter and urging increased grassroots support for these important quality-of-life issues for currently serving families. You can also reach out to your DSLO regional liaison to find additional ways to advance their work to improve state-level policy.
Making a Difference in Military Life
Military spouse blogger Mrs. Navy Mama shares her support of MOAA’s efforts to help military families and how you can get involved.