The Military to Civilian Transition

Written by Elliott Tomlinson (’17) – Wake Forest School of Law Veterans Legal Clinic Student Practitioner

In 2011, the White House established the Department of Defense Credentialing and Licensing Task Force. Its goal–to oversee the execution of credentialing of Department of Defense Service, such as Army and Air Force experience, for service members when they return to civilian life. Each year, many individuals transition from military to civilian life with professional skills they gained during their time in the military, but unfortunately, that do not translate to equivalent civilian positions making it more challenging for service members to make that transition.

Congress has taken some steps in an attempt to resolve this problem and combat Veterans unemployment. Many Veterans retire with exceptional leadership skills, extensive professional training, and are generally reliable as a result of the training they receive while in the military. They are ideal employees. So what then is the problem? It all comes down to civilian professional licensing requirements which are state level, and not federal.

Professional occupation licensing is regulated on a state by state level making it a difficult problem for the federal government to solve directly. This issue is especially relevant in North Carolina, given the large population of active and retired military members. North Carolina regulates over 100 different professions.  This includes medical jobs, truck drivers, aircraft maintenance workers, EMTs and Paramedics, and automotive mechanics to name a few.

The federal government is taking steps to make the transition easier. Through legislation and initiatives intended to inform licensing boards on the military training process state boards are more likely to recognize that training for civilian jobs. Additionally, the Department of Defense is working to track the requirements and adapt military training where possible to meet the civilian training requirements. For example, Army and Air Force medics receive basic certification from the National Registry of EMTs upon the completion of their training according to a 2012 DoD Credentialing and Licensing report.  Nearly all state licensing boards recognize this certification, however many states also have additional requirements. The goal, as laid out in the 2012 DoD Task Force’s report is to make this process more seamless so that military training can translate directly to civilian roles, such as an Army medic to a civilian EMT.

In 2013, North Carolina enacted Session Law 2014-67 specifically addressing the issue of military service members obtaining professional licenses in North Carolina. The bill directs state licensing agencies (of which there are many) to issue a license or certification for a “military-trained applicant to lawfully practice the applicant’s occupation in this State” if certain conditions are met. [1] Licensing boards are required to notify applicants if their military training meets the standards for this section within 30 days.[2] The criteria or requirements that are satisfied by military training must be published on the licensing board’s website as well as the NC Division of Veterans Affairs website.

North Carolina and many other states are working together to lessen the credentialing burden for qualified veterans, but there are still challenges. As long as licensing requirements vary by state there will not be a simple solution, however, improvements are being made.

[1] N.C.G.S. §93B-15.1(a)

[2] N.C.G.S. §93B-15.1(a1)