Libby Jamison, an attorney at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), has been named the 2019 Military.com Military Spouse Changemaker of the Year. Libby has been working diligently to deliver appeals decisions to Veterans and their loved ones. She also volunteers her time as a lead for the Board’s Teambuilding and Individual Skills Training program, helping her colleagues achieve personal and professional growth by improving various skills.
Libby’s clear dedication to her work and to serving Veterans, however, is not what has earned her the honor of Military.com’s award.
As a military spouse, Libby has experienced multiple relocations throughout her husband’s career and has faced professional roadblocks each time she moves to a new state. For perspective, an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania cannot pick up and begin practicing law in Maryland without first going through Maryland’s licensing requirements. For many states, that means retaking the bar—an arduous and costly exam requiring several weeks of studying and preparation. Military families face relocation as often as every two to three years, and when professionally-licensed military spouses go through the process of an unexpected relocation, it can temporarily stop their careers in their tracks.
When her family relocated to Florida several years ago, and she endured the frustrating experience of acquiring her new state law license, she took matters into her own hands and founded MissionLICENSE, an organization to help licensed professionals maintain career continuity with minimal disruption when transferring to another jurisdiction.
To learn more about Libby’s dedication to military spouse advocacy, the Board interviewed her about the organizations she has been involved in, her inspiration, and the experiences she’s had over the years that have brought her to this point in her career and military spouse activism.
Question. Can you describe how you felt when you learned you were nominated for the 2019 Military.com Military Spouse Changemaker of the Year award?
Answer. I was incredibly honored when I learned about my nomination for the 2019 Military.com Military Spouse Changemaker award. There are so many amazing people working to improve outcomes for career-minded military spouses, and it is an honor to be included with them.
Q. What circumstances or events led you to this award?
A. I was nominated for my work supporting career-minded military spouses. Unfortunately, because of frequent moves and the unique challenges of military life, military spouses face an unemployment rate estimated to be as high as four times that of their peers. I’ve tried to help other military spouses dealing with career challenges through organizations like Hiring Our Heroes and the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN). Together, we work to educate employers and reduce barriers like occupational licensing challenges when transferring across states lines.
Q. As the former MSJDN president, you were instrumental in achieving bar rule changes in California and Washington—two states with notoriously difficult bar exams—making it easier for military spouse attorneys to obtain licenses in those states. What inspired you to start volunteering for this particular organization?
A. I was fortunate enough that my husband, an active duty Navy pilot, remained at one duty station for almost nine years after we were first married. It allowed me to attend and graduate law school, find my first job as an attorney, and eventually start my firm, all in one place with a supportive network. Then we moved four times in six years, and I faced incredible upheaval in my career. After spending several months being frustrated, I decided that I needed to do something about it. I joined the MSJDN as their social media manager and eventually served as president of the specialty bar association supporting military spouse attorneys and law students. MSJDN works with bar associations across the country to implement licensing accommodations for military spouses. Since 2011, 37 jurisdictions have adopted military spouse attorney licensing rules to help military families maintain financial stability and allow military spouses to maintain their careers when moving alongside a servicemember.
Q. You’ve been involved in quite a few organizations over the years. As head of the San Diego, CA Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ), you advocate for military spouse employment. Can you talk about the top two or three lessons you learned from this experience and how they impacted your career?
A. Leading the San Diego MSEEZ reminds me of the power of collaboration. We work with the City of San Diego, the regional Chamber of Commerce, local businesses, civic leaders, and the military community to tackle the high unemployment rate faced by military spouses. It’s not something that any of us can solve on our own, but it’s inspiring to see different corners of the community coming together to create a local solution to support military spouses in San Diego. Working with the MSEEZ is also important because I believe that finding solutions to increase military spouse participation in the workforce helps us craft solutions that will benefit all Americans. While some of these issues, like occupational licensing, childcare, and re-entering the workforce, are amplified for military spouses because of constant relocations, these are issues that affect many in the workplace. It’s exciting to be part of building these solutions for the future.
Q. What led to the creation of MissionLICENSE?
A. I co-founded MissionLICENSE with a fellow military spouse to help others navigate the complex occupational licensing requirements across the states. As military spouses and licensed professionals, our mobile lives mean we have experienced the personal and financial disruption caused by overly burdensome licensing requirements. We have moved across state lines more times than we can count, invested thousands of dollars in relicensing and job hunting, and struggled to navigate complex and repetitive licensing schemes. Through our own experiences, we developed a passion for supporting others dealing with licensing frustrations. We put our passion to work, advising other professionals, building non-profit programs, and campaigning for regulatory changes. Now, through MissionLICENSE, we offer one-on-one individualized advice and support to anyone struggling to transfer their professional license to another jurisdiction.
Q. What are your long-term goals for MissionLICENSE?
A. To help as many people as possible solve their occupational licensing problems.
Q. Your experiences have led you to achieve great things. What would you say to other professionally-licensed military spouses who find themselves in a situation like yours?
A. It’s easy to become frustrated and feel that the system is rigged against you. As a lawyer, taking the bar exam repeatedly, paying thousands of dollars in dues to multiple jurisdictions, and being told “no” by employers can crush your spirit. My advice to others is to find a way to have a positive impact. Speak up and act. Whether it’s through volunteer or paid work, finding a way to help others facing the same challenges as you are is a great way to give back and overcome your situation.
Q. In what way(s) are you a different person today because of your experiences as a military spouse?
A. Although there are many challenges as a military spouse, I’m incredibly grateful to support my husband in his service to our country. We’ve had the opportunity to live in all corners of the U.S. and soak in the different communities. Being a military spouse forces me out of my comfort zone, and I appreciate how it has exposed me to so many people and experiences that I would never have encountered if we weren’t a military family.
Q. How does your experience as a military spouse relate to or impact the work you do at the Board?
A. I’m incredibly grateful to work at the Board in service of Veterans and their families. Not only has working at the Board afforded me the opportunity for portable employment that I was able to take with me when my husband was stationed in San Diego last year, but I get to put my legal skills to use serving our military community. I think that I have a unique perspective as a military spouse attorney at the Board because I can relate the daily experiences we face as a military family to the claims file in front of me. I’ve witnessed first-hand how deployments, training, and the stresses of military service affect my husband and others in his unit physically and mentally. I know that they often stay quiet about the nights without sleep, the physical challenges of their missions, and the constant stress. They don’t always seek medical care right away because they are committed to their duties. When I am reviewing claims, I keep the real-world impact of military service in mind and remember that honor, duty, and service aren’t just words to the Veteran and the family on the other side of the claims file.
Libby Jamison’s dedication to military spouses—and her impressive cause-driven entrepreneurship—is nothing short of inspiring. The 2019 Military.com Military Spouse Changemaker of the Year award is just one way of acknowledging Libby as the change agent that she is. The agency is proud to call her one of VA’s own!