A school counselor was licensed in Ohio and later became licensed as school counselor in Missouri. In 2022, she was employed as a long-term substitute counselor at a middle school in Ohio and a guidance counselor at an elementary school in Missouri. On July 29, 2022, she married an active-duty Air Force officer. Shortly thereafter, he received orders for a permanent change of station from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. His wife resigned her employment and relocated to Texas with her husband.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief
Act guarantees the portability of certain professional
licenses of U.S. service members and their spouses when they relocate on
military orders. The law states that, in any case in which a service member
or the spouse of a service member has a professional license
and relocates his or her residency because of military orders for military
service to a location that is not in the jurisdiction of the licensing
authority that issued the license, the license shall be considered
valid in the service member's new location.
When the service member's
wife arrived in Texas, she applied to obtain a school counselor
certificate. Her application was denied because she failed to verify
two years of full-time, wage-earning experience in the role of a school
counselor, which is a requirement for an out-of-state applicant for school
counselor certification in Texas. When she pointed out that she believed that
the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allowed her out-of-state license to transfer, TEA informed
her that, because the SCRA requires that the license have been
"actively used during the two years immediately preceding the
relocation," she would still be required to submit proof of "two
creditable years of service" working as a school counselor before she
would be eligible for Texas certification.
The service member's wife filed a
lawsuit, alleging that TEA violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by refusing to honor her
out-of-state certification. She also applied for a temporary injunction to
prevent TEA from denying her certification while the lawsuit was pending.
In deciding whether to grant the
temporary injunction, the court was required to decide whether the
service member's wife was likely to win her lawsuit. TEA argued that the
requirement that the license must have been used "actively during the two
years immediately preceding the relocation" means that the license
must been used continuously for the entire two-year period preceding
relocation. Under this interpretation, the service member's wife would
be ineligible for the SCRA's portability protections because she did not
actively use the licenses until 2022 when she was employed as a school
counselor in Missouri and did not use them for the entire two-year period
before she moved to Texas. The service member's wife argued that the law
requires only that she used her Missouri and Ohio licenses at any point
during the two-year period preceding her move to Texas.
The court found that TEA's
interpretation would impose restrictions on the ability of service members
and their spouses to port their professional licenses. For example,
TEA's interpretation would prohibit newly licensed individuals from
porting their credentials across state lines in the event of a military
transfer. It would also disqualify deeply experienced licensees who work
part time or who happened to take recent work leave for medical or personal
reasons. Given the unpredictable timing and frequency of military-ordered
moves, this approach would make license portability impossible for many
service members and spouses. The court therefore found that the service member's
wife was likely to win her lawsuit.
The court also found that failing
to grant the service member's wife her counselor's license would cause
irreparable harm, because she would be unable to find work in her chosen
profession. Therefore, the court granted the application for temporary
injunction and held that TEA could not deny her application for a school
counselor due to lack of two creditable years of service.
This case will now proceed to
trial, which could change the outcome.