Karen Pence opens campaign to help support military spouses

WASHINGTON (AP) — Karen Pence, the vice president's wife, opened a campaign Thursday to help military spouses get the support and services they need.

Mrs. Pence said one of the biggest frustrations that some spouses have told her about is getting a new professional license to continue in careers that require one every time they relocate, which can happen every few years for military families.

In a speech to a gathering of military spouses, she pointed out that they are now eligible to be reimbursed by the federal government for relicensing or recertification costs under a defense bill that President Donald Trump recently signed into law.

"Licensing is expensive," she said in a speech at the Army's Fort Carson in Colorado.

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Vice President Mike Pence is sworn in as his wife Karen Pence watches during inauguration ceremonies swearing in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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Karen Pence, wife of Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence, speaks to supporters during a campaign event November 3, 2016 in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, campaigned for her husband, five days before the nation pick her next president.

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte, visit the former German Nazi concentration camp in Dachau near Munich, Germany February 19, 2017.

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U.S. President Donald Trump with his wife Melania and Vice President Mike Pence with his wife Karen cut a cake at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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Indiana governor Mike Pence and wife Karen Pence attends the 2014 IPL 500 Festival Parade during the 2014 Indy 500 Festival at on May 24, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Karen Pence (L), wife of Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Governor Mike Pence (L), talks with Tiffany (C) and Ivanka Trump before the arrival of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 20, 2016.

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Mike Pence is sworn in as U.S. Vice President as his wife Karen holds a bible during inauguration ceremonies swearing in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden meet with Vice President elect Mike Pence and Karen Pence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, U.S., November 16, 2016.

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U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence with his wife Karen enters the floor to dance at Indiana Society Ball in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2017.

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Melania Trump, wife to the Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, and Karen Pence, wife of Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, hold an event at Main Line Sports Centre in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 3, 2016.

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U.S. Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence arrive at U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump?s election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 8, 2016.

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Anne Holton (L), wife of Democratic U.S. vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (L), shakes hands with Karen Pence, wife of Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, ahead of the start of their vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, U.S., October 4, 2016.

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Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the GOP Vice Presidential candidate, greet the crowd along with his wife Karen during a town hall meeting at the Mile High Station August 03, 2016.

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Mrs. Pence also highlighted an executive order Trump signed this year to promote the hiring of military spouses by the U.S. government, and she named several private businesses that she said are working to help military spouses.

"In the Trump administration, we feel it is imperative we support our military spouses and children," said Mrs. Pence, whose son is in Marine flight school. "Spouses do so much and ask for so little." She referred to them as the "backbone" of their families.

In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week, she said the challenges facing military spouses, including finding child care, can affect military readiness. Unhappy spouses can lead to unhappy service members, and they may eventually quit.

Her effort is reminiscent of Joining Forces, an initiative to promote military families led by Michelle Obama, the former first lady, and Jill Biden, the wife of former Vice President Joe Biden. Mrs. Pence, whose husband is Vice President Mike Pence, told the AP that Joining Forces made a lot of progress by making states aware of licensing issues, prompting them to change the laws.

But a recent study by the University of Minnesota found that, while state laws may have been updated, information provided by occupational boards is sometimes lacking. Some applications left out questions about military status, while some websites had no information about the transfer process for military spouses, the study found.

It's an area where Mrs. Pence wants to apply her influence, though she is mindful that she has a couple of years left to try to make a difference.

"These things take time. Nobody elected me, nobody voted for me. They don't want me writing policy, and I don't intend to," she told the AP. "But what I do know I could do is I can speak to as many spouses as possible and encourage them and uplift them and connect them."

She said she understands a little bit of what the spouses go through, since she and the vice president have had 14 homes during their 33-year marriage.

"They are such professionals, and we all just want to do what we can in this short window of time to make a difference," she added about military spouses. "Maybe it's just one thing that we can do. ... But we want to do what we can now that we have people who, you know, will take our call."

Mrs. Pence also highlighted another issue Thursday: helping kids cope with having a deployed parent.

She was handing out "comfort kits" to children that include an animated video, a guided journal and a teddy bear. She and the spouses of nearly 30 members of Congress assembled 500 of the kits last week.

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