New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sits next to first lady Michelle Obama on Feb. 24 as President Obama welcomed the governors of the National Governors Association to the 2013 Governors Dinner at the White House in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP)
WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama on Monday challenged governors to make it easier for military personnel to transfer their skills to civilian jobs as they return home from Afghanistan and other far-flung posts.
"While this time of war may be ending, the truth is our responsibility to our troops and their families will really just be ramping up," Mrs. Obama told governors during an event at the White House.
Mrs. Obama pressed states to pass legislation or take executive action by 2015 allowing veterans to receive professional credentials or licenses based on their experiences in the military. Administration officials said that would allow veterans to apply for jobs more quickly rather than having to take courses for skills they already have.
The nation's governors are in Washington for their annual meeting.
The veterans' initiatives are part of Mrs. Obama's "Joining Forces" program, which aims to help veterans and their families. The program has focused in particular on assisting military personnel find civilian jobs, an effort that is expected to take on more urgency as the Afghan war comes to a close by the end of next year.
Mrs. Obama said 1 million military personnel will be transitioning back to civilian life over the next few years.
The first lady wants states to focus in particular on making it easier for veterans to obtain credentials and licenses for commercial driving, nursing, and emergency medical services, administration officials said. The White House has outlined suggested legislative language states can use for implementing the changes.
Officials did not have an estimate for how much it would cost states to implement the credentialing programs. But they suggested the programs could eventually be a cost-saver by keeping veterans off unemployment.
Mrs. Obama has previously called on states to help military spouses transfer their state-specific credentials when their families move due to changes in deployment. Seventeen states have passed such legislation over the past year, joining 11 states that already had laws on the books.