The American Legion, a long-standing advocate of promoting attainment of civilian certifications and licenses by military service members and veterans, has completed a “State of Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans Report” highlighting the challenges military-trained applicants face in attaining civilian credentials, the successful initiatives that have helped to alleviate these barriers and eight key opportunities for further action. The report, sponsored by Military. com and prepared by SOLID LLC, was presented during The Legion’s Credentialing Roundtable held in February in Washington, D.C. The roundtable was the first of a series of credentialing-focused events to be held by the Legion in 2017, which will culminate with a National Credentialing Summit planned for November of this year.
The Legion’s report underscores the importance the military has placed on promoting credentialing of service members over the entire course of the military life cycle — from recruiting to transition. It also stresses the value that holding a civilian certification has for transitioning service members and veterans seeking to demonstrate to prospective civilian employers that the training and experience they attained in the military are on par with that of their civilian counterparts.
The report points out that the Department of Defense (DoD) and military services’ ongoing efforts to encourage credentialing, along with numerous recent congressional and White House-promoted initiatives, have led to a decrease in the types of military-specific barriers that have been identified over the years. The introduction of Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) programs for all the services, payment of credential fees during military service and military collaboration with civilian academic institutions to develop bridge training programs are just a few of the successes that have been achieved. As the military-centric impediments have been reduced, many of the remaining challenges align with efforts underway to reform and add transparency to the civilian credentialing system in the United States.
The following eight key opportunities for action are excerpted from The Legion report:
1. Improve the Post 9/11 GI Bill Licensing and Certification Benefit. Amend the legislation pertaining to the Post 9/11 GI Bill payment of licensure and certification exam fees so that rather than charging an entire month’s worth of a beneficiary’s entitlement for the cost of a credential exam (which typically is about $250), the amount of benefit charged would be pro-rated to the cost of the exam.
2. Ensure the Quality of Certification Programs. Opportunities to ensure the quality of certifications programs include: 1) raise the awareness of industry of the importance of accreditation as a key discriminator of quality; 2) provide government incentives to certification bodies to attain accreditation, possibly by offering certification organizations access to funds to subsidize the cost of accreditation; and 3) support the use of third-party accredited certification programs in decisions to award government contracts and grants.
3. Ensure the Quality of Nontraditional Credential Preparation Programs. To improve the ability of service members and veterans to meet credential eligibility requirements and/or pass associated exams, resources to pay for nontraditional credentialing preparation programs need to be increased. This is predicated, however, on the increased establishment and use of quality assurance mechanisms for nontraditional education, accompanied by better dissemination of information about those programs that have undergone a quality assurance review. Taking one or more of the following actions to lay the foundation for this:
- Identify existing quality assurance screening mechanisms for nontraditional education, and an assessment of the extent to which they would apply to credential preparation programs. (This might include certificate accreditation programs established in recent years by the American National Standards Institute and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, as well as programs recognized by the Council on Occupational Education, etc.)
- Develop a compendium of federal programs that currently fund nontraditional education programs, including the screening mechanisms and criteria they use and whether they would apply to credential preparation programs, and an assessment of the accessibility of information on approved programs. (This would include, for example, programs administered by the Departments of Labor, Defense, Education and Veterans Affairs.)
4. Better Identify the Labor Market Demand for Credentials. Increase research on the labor market demand for credentials with an emphasis on ensuring that the unique value of occupational credentials for military trained civilian job seekers is captured.
5. Track Credential Attainment Outcomes. Increase research on tracking credentialing outcomes, with an emphasis on:
- In-service effects of credential attainment for service members, including the impact on such things as promotion, job performance and retention
- Civilian labor market outcomes for the general population as well as transitioning service members and veterans
6. Reduce State Licensure Barriers. Build on the significant strides made in recent years to reduce state licensing barriers for service members, veterans and military spouses and: 1) continue to promote legislation, policies and programs that will allow for greater recognition of military training and experience for purposes of state licensing and academic credit, and that will help reduce barriers to state licensing for military spouses; 2) track and report on existing state efforts to reduce licensing barriers for service members, veterans and spouses; and 3) encourage state licensing agencies and academic institutions to rely on existing third-party assessments of military training and experience, such as the ACE credit recommendations.
7. Develop a Repository of Information on Best Practices to Facilitate the Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans. Develop a repository of information on best practices to facilitate the credentialing of service members and veterans to allow stakeholders to learn from and emulate successful initiatives.
8. Ensure Military and Veteran Credentialing Interests Are Represented in Civilian Workforce Credentialing Initiatives. DoD, the military services and veterans’ organizations should become actively involved in initiatives under way to reform the nation’s credentialing system to: 1) stay abreast of civilian credentialing trends to ensure military credentialing policies and programs remain relevant; 2) ensure that the unique needs of service members and veterans are considered; and 3) promote military training and experience as a more widely accepted form of demonstrating competency to perform in the civilian workplace.
The interest in credentialing of service members and veterans remains a key issue that will continue to be addressed by policymakers at all levels. During a Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Personnel hearing held on Feb. 15, 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts noted, “America spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to train service members to do highly skilled jobs … they should be ready to move into civilian life with [the help of] certifications.” The subcommittee chairman, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, expressed his strong agreement with Senator Warren and commented that this is clearly an issue that will continue to receive bipartisan support.
The American Legion has committed to the ongoing promotion of credentialing of service members and veterans by continuing to convene stakeholders, promote policy and legislation, and generally raise awareness of the challenges as well as the best practices that can be emulated by credentialing agencies, academia and other credentialing stakeholders.
Download American Legion's "State of Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans Report."
Lisa Lutz is president and CEO of SOLID LLC. She has over 20 years of experience in policy analysis and program evaluation, specializing in education, employment and training issues related to military service members and veterans. Her work has concentrated on the use of occupational credentialing to promote the professional development of service members and ensure their smooth transition from the military to the civilian workforce. She has performed research, provided policy guidance and developed programs in this area for numerous organizations, including the U.S. Departments of Defense, Labor, Army, Navy, Air Force, Energy and Transportation.