Military Spouse Residency Relief Act

The Military Spouse Residency Relief Act – What is that, and why do we need it?

spouses-at-the-launch-of-msrra-with-carter1Yesterday, representatives from Blue Star Families went to Capitol Hill, to show support for an Act that will mean a lot to all military spouses, regardless of service branch.

Representative John Carter (R-Tex) reintroduced the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act. This bill, which passed the House last session, but didn’t get through the Senate before the recess, will give military spouses the same rights as the service member, when it comes to “State of Residence”. When we move, and some of us move more than others, the service member is allowed to “keep” his/her state of residence (taxes, property, voting) as they go to a different state. However, unless you are a state resident of the few states that allow it, the spouse has to become a resident of the state that they are now living in. That means the spouse has a problem if the car is owned in both names – a lot of military families have vehicles in only the service member’s name because of this! Taxes – which are confusing enough for most of us, become more confusing when Soldier X is filing his taxes in one state, Spouse X files in another (no joint filing of State taxes then) – it gives tax accountants a job, that’s for sure! Voting – you have to register in a new state, and get to know your local representatives and get educated on the issues in your area. Let’s not forget the nightmare of the DMV and getting a driver’s license renewed/changed – and wondering… do I have to? As one commenter yesterday asked “am I legal?”

bsf-with-sen-carter1The problem gets worse for the spouse who has a career that needs licensure. As Star & Stripes reported, (and look at the last paragraph –  Tameka Gabriel from North Carolina – one of the Blue Star members in the pink shirt in this picture)  Cindy Maurer, a physical therapist listed all the places she has licenses from – and every time she moves, she has to do this again! For some professional licenses, you have to take a class (and pay for it) then pay for the test… so let’s see – PCS to Ft. Bragg, get settled (that takes time) take a class, (when is it offered, once or twice a year?) then study , take the test (again, how often is it offered?) then wait for your results. Yay- you passed the test, now start job hunting; Yay – got a job… and another set of orders for another state….PCS to Ft. Lewis…… and the hamster wheel starts again.

Representative Carter talked to us about the military spouses who came to him with this problem, one of  the founders of the MSBA (Military Spouse Business Association) Rebecca Poynter, who was joined by Joanna Williamson. He was, as he put it, surprised that this problem even existed and when he puts this bill before his colleagues, they are pretty surprised too. After all, spouses move when their service member moves, right? So doesn’t it make sense to allow them to hold onto that residency too?

So, if you want to support this bill, contact your congressperson,  and your senator and in some cases, contact the one of the state you have residency for, and the one of the state you are living in, or the one you lived in 2 years ago, or the one you are PCSing to! Letters, email, phone calls, however you want to make your voice heard – do it! Rep. Carter is hoping to get it through the entire process and onto the President’s desk this fall. I for one, will help him anyway I can – what about you?

If you need assistance contacting your senator or representative, or if you’d like more information about this bill, you can contact Blue Star Families.  We’re happy to help.

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