73% of Americans Favor Occupational License Reforms for Military Families, as Veterans Day Approaches

An overwhelming 92% of people say it is important to ensure military families earn sustainable incomes

WASHINGTON--()--A national survey finds broad support by Americans for reforms to the overly restrictive system of occupational license regulations which severely inhibit the ability of military service members and their families from earning a sustainable income. The survey, deployed by verified identity platform Merit, brings much needed attention to the outdated and inefficient state laws and regulations preventing military families from securing employment opportunities when reassigned across state lines.

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.

“One in five military families is, right now at this moment, struggling to maintain an occupational license,” said Merit Co-founder and COO Jacob Orrin. “That means these families, who give so much to our country, often struggle to make ends meet. Spouses who want - who need - to work in order to support their families, deserve a solution for this well-known bureaucratic blockade.”

A 2017 U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey found that nearly half of military spouses describe their financial situation as ‘struggling’ or living ‘paycheck to paycheck.’ These spouses earn 27% less than their civilian peers because they are often forced to accept employment below their education and skill level when transferring an occupational license out of state proves impossible.

Occupational licenses are hardwon only after investing months of retraining and compliance. In New Jersey, for example, a cosmetology license requires 1,200 hours of training. In California, an EMT license is awarded after 160 hours of training, while tree trimmers must attend 400 hours of training all while jobs go unfilled. 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.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • 83% of Americans support allowing military families to use their professional licenses in any state, regardless of where they initially received their license
  • 80% of Americans understand that military families face some degree of financial insecurity
  • 59% of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who support allowing military family members to work in a state using their professional license(s) from a different state
  • 73% of voters broadly support the use of technology to allow licensed people to use digital versions of their professional licenses.
  • 79% of Americans say government and the private sector should do everything they can to make it easier for military spouses to find work in a new location

“For Army spouses trying to balance a professional career with the frequent moves required by the military, the complicated patchwork of state licensing rules is challenging and often a source of financial stress,” said Holly Dailey, Director, Family Readiness at the Association of the United States Army. “Thankfully, some states have reciprocal agreements for certain types of licenses, but there is a lot left to do. This is a priority for AUSA. We are happy to have partners in this effort.”

To learn more about the survey, Merit, or how you can help demand interoperable reciprocity for military families, visit Merits.com/reciprocity.

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.

About Merit

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.


On behalf of Merit International, Embold Research surveyed registered voters nationwide from September 16-18, 2022. Respondents were recruited via dynamic online sampling to attain a sample reflective of the population. Post-stratification weighting was performed on age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, and 2020 presidential vote. Weighting parameters were based on voterfile data.


Kevin Farrell


Kevin Farrell