Supporting our Military Families

By: Sheila McNeill

Camden County and the State of Georgia have reason to be proud. My counterparts from across the state where military installations are located, and I have been working with Kevin Bruch, DoD Regional Liaison for about five years to make changes that affect our military families. This past year it was discussed during Senator Perdue’s Military Advisory Board and those in attendance agreed to put special emphasis on the issues that Georgia needed to enact.

This year turned out to be an important one. More bills were presented and approved than any years since when we first started. These laws include:

  • Facilitating military spouse teacher certification. Military spouse teachers often encounter difficulty acquiring licensure in a state after a move – that is no longer an issue
  • Remote enrollment: Military children attend an average of 6-8 schools during their school life. Military families transferring on official military orders are usually not eligible to register in courses, programs or lotteries for charter, magnet school entry until they are physically located within district boundaries. Schools could allow preliminary registration/enrollment, or application pending military relocation and waive proof of residence until the family has moved.
  • In-state tuition. In many states, students with a military sponsor stationed in a State are considered in-state for tuition purposes. However, if the sponsor has a change of station out of State between receiving their letter of acceptance and start of classes the student loses this status. States can alleviate this burden by allowing a spouse or child of an active Service member assigned to duty out of State to be deemed an in-State resident for purposes of determining tuition/fees at all State learning institutions as long as the spouse or child resides continuously in-State.
  • National Guard employment protections during state-sponsored activation: State laws that cover Guard members during State-sponsored mobilizations impact employers within the state. States can modify their laws to protect rights of members of the National Card during state-sponsored mobilization who drill outside of the State in which they are employed.
  • Licensing Compacts recognizing separating Service members and military spouses: An increasing number of occupations are establishing compacts that facilitate portability of licenses and opportunities to work in members states with an existing license. Having States enact laws approving these compacts further expedites licensure in these occupations for separating Service members and military spouses. Already passed were Nurses Compact and Replica Compact. Passed this session were Physical Therapy compact and Psychology Compact.
  • Pro-bono legal representation for military families: Military families have access to legal assistance attorneys for advice and help with important documents, but they must generally obtain their own counsel to represent them in court. State governments can assist by organizing pro-bono programs that can connect qualified attorneys with Service members and their families in need.
  • Implementation of supportive licensure laws: Most States have established laws that support licensure requirements for transitioning Service members and active duty military spouses; however, research has shown that some licensing boards have not fulfilled the intent of these laws. State legislatures can assist by requesting occupational licensing boards report on their efforts to implement these laws.
  • State policy to support identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect: State laws do not require child protective services to identify military families in cases of child abuse and neglect or to report cases to the appropriate military authorities. Changes in state law can support both local government and the Military Departments concurrently assisting in child abuse or neglect cases involving military families
  • Allow service members to retain their earned priority for receiving Medicaid home and community care waivers. Because States frequently have long waiting lists, Service members face large gaps in service every time they transfer across state lines. Allowing Service members to enroll their exceptional family members in the State they designate as their legal residence (where they pay taxes, vote) can stabilize their request for support.

We believe in the next session we will be 100% in line with the issues that the Department of Defense has requested. We would like to hear from any military families of any concerns that they have. Our thanks to our two state representatives Stephen Sainz and John Corbitt who have supported the needs of our community and the military stationed in Camden County.