First Lady Michelle Obama visited Annapolis Wednesday as Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation that streamlines the process for veterans to gain certification and licensing for state-regulated professions.
The bill comes from a call from Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, for states to make it easier for veterans to find employment when they leave the military.
Since the initiative began in 2010, Obama’s Joining Forces has led to 13 states implementing some form of licensing equivalency for veterans, and 36 states have reciprocity for military spouses who move to those states from elsewhere.
During the signing ceremony, Obama mentioned stories she had heard from veterans and their families over the years as they struggled to find jobs.
“Army medics who couldn’t get jobs as EMTs, Marine welders who couldn’t land a manufacturing job here, or the convoy drivers who couldn’t get hired to drive a semi,” Obama said. “Even with all that experience, these men and women wouldn’t even be considered for entry-level jobs in their fields because they didn’t have the right civilian credentials.”
Under Maryland’s bill, which Obama heralded as one of the best in the country, veterans who have separated from the military within one year can apply for expedited professional credentials. The bill outlines more than 70 specific licenses to which veterans could have easy access if they qualify and have the relevant training.
The provisions also apply to military spouses, who often move from state to state and have to undergo licensing procedures.
The Maryland Higher Education Commission also will be required to develop guidelines to give veterans academic credit for certain courses taken during the course of military training.
According to state analysts, Maryland, like many states, has higher levels of unemployment among veterans than among the general population. The disparity is even higher among post-9/11 veterans. In 2011, the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans was around 9 percent, and 7 percent among all veterans. The overall unemployment rate was 6 percent.
O’Malley said the bill was necessary not just for veterans, but for the state’s economy.
“Every single person and every person’s talent is needed in order to expand jobs and expand opportunity,” O’Malley said.