Ken Lawson: Fee waivers help veterans

Published: Monday, November 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 3:53 p.m.

Veterans Day is a time of year when I reflect upon the dedication and service of this country’s military personnel. It’s also a time when I reflect upon my own experiences as a Marine. As a Marine, I learned many things about myself, but most importantly, I learned the values of leadership and serving others.

I currently serve as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and during this time I’ve worked hard to find ways to provide benefits to Florida’s military families. Last year, Gov. Rick Scott signed into a law a bill that was supported by DBPR to allow for professional license fee waivers to veterans.

The DBPR Military Veteran Fee Waiver program eliminates the initial professional license fee, initial application fee and initial unlicensed activity fee for veterans returning from service, when applying for professional licensure within 24 months of being honorably discharged. The waivers may be used for more than 20 professions under DBPR’s jurisdiction, including construction contractors, realtors, certified public accountants and cosmetologists, as well as businesses under DBPR’s Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics Division. The waivers could save veterans anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than one thousand dollars depending on license type.

The department has also found ways to support the spouses of active military members who are stationed in Florida. By creating a way for military spouses to transfer professional licenses from other jurisdictions to Florida with ease, DBPR is now able to issue temporary licenses to military spouses so they can get to work while their spouse honorably serves our country. Through the granting of temporary licenses, we are enabling military spouses to adjust to their new surroundings, which makes for a seamless transition for the family.

In addition, active duty military members can have their license placed on inactive status while on active duty and for six months after discharge. During this military exempt status, licensees are also exempt from renewal fees and continuing education requirements.

Although this initiative is still in its infancy, we’re seeing steady results of military veterans and their families benefiting. So far, more than 400 licenses have been processed by DBPR under military exempt status and more than 60 license fee waivers have been granted, which accounts for thousands of dollars in savings to America’s heroes and their families.

As a former Marine and an American who appreciates the sacrifices military members and their families make each day, I am determined that DBPR’s efforts continue to provide benefits for members of the armed forces won’t stop here. At DBPR, I recently initiated a “Veterans Quality Circle” where military veterans from each division in the department meet to develop recommendations on ways we can continue to assist veterans in becoming new licensees and benefiting from the range of services offered by the department. We are indebted to our service members, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you do for our country.

Happy Veterans Day!

Ken Lawson is the secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

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