Streamline professional licensing for veterans

States should waive occupational licensing requirements, tests and fees for veterans who've acquired relevant skills in the military.

Vet school: Many service acquire professional skills that should translate into civilian credentials. Image credit: iStockphoto by Getty

Even as the nation’s jobless rate slowly ticks downward, unemployment for some veterans remains higher than the national average.

The unemployment rate for Gulf War II era veterans (those who served after September 2001) was 6.9 percent in March, compared to 6.7 percent for the nation as a whole. In March 2013, the unemployment rate for these veterans was 9.2 percent, compared to 7.4 percent for non-vets.

Many veterans acquire valuable professional skills while in the military that should easily translate into civilian credentials. But many states require veterans to get additional certifications, licenses or tests, in addition to paying significant fees.

As a White House task force reported:

[M]any service members are required to repeat education or training in order to receive industry certifications and state occupational licenses, even though much, and in some cases, all, of their military training and experience overlaps with credential training requirements.

Some states are beginning to waive licensing and certification requirements and fees for veterans with the right training, a lead that every state should follow. For example:

  • In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed a package of bills that would allow veterans to count relevant military experience toward a career as an emergency medical technician; to substitute for 60 hours’ of education toward a contractors’ license; or to serve as the basis for licensing as a mechanical contractor. The state will also waive the required training for firefighters if a veteran received relevant training in the military.
  • In other states, such as Wisconsin and Florida, veterans can get a waiver from paying initial occupational licensing fees.
  • Thirty-four states now waive commercial drivers license tests for veterans with experience driving trucks, buses or other vehicles that would require a commercial drivers license in the civilian world.

According to the White House report, the expected drawdown of forces in Afghanistan will mean a million more service members leaving the military over the next several years. A smooth transition for these veterans into the civilian workforce will be critical.

On the other hand, many of the skills these new veterans have will be in high demand. The White House also reports that the demand for emergency medical technicians could increase by as much 33 percent by 2020, and that the demand for licensed practical nurses will grow by more than 22 percent.

In addition to recognizing the service these veterans have given to the country, states should also recognize the valuable professional experience these men and women have also received by making their transition to the civilian workforce as seamless and cost-free as possible.