MIGHTY 25: Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Jamison took milspouse employment advocacy to the president
Senior advisor to Joining Forces and attorney for the VA Elizabeth “Libby” Jamison used her platform to champion an executive order for military spouse employment - and she’s just getting started.
Understanding the challenges of military life is nothing new for Jamison.
“I’m a Navy brat, my dad was a submariner and I grew up moving all over the place. My mom was a computer science graduate from the 70s and I watched her struggle balancing a career and us kids,” she explained. “It was hard back then and they’d go months without any communication. Eventually, she had to give up her career until my dad got out.”
Watching her mother left an impression on her.
“When I became a Navy spouse myself, I picked law school because I figured there are lawyers all over the country and I wouldn’t have to give anything up,” Jamison added.
Despite it being a profession that’s always in high demand, she didn’t realize how complicated the licensing process would be as she moved from state to state. Jamison completed law school in San Diego and was able to launch her own firm. Then, her husband got orders for Florida.
Not only was she going to have to get relicensed for another state but Jamison would be required to sit for yet another bar exam – a $5,000 requirement to practice law.
“As I was researching, I came across the Military Spouse JD Network. It was basically a tribe of career-minded military spouses trying to juggle the same things I was,” she said. “From there, I connected with the folks at Hiring our Heroes and it just seemed like the perfect moment to start advocating for the DOD and employers to understand our struggle.”
Jamison was soon the communications director for the MSJDN and eventually, its president. When her husband was stationed in Washington D.C., she started working for the VA, and her boss, an Air Force spouse, had just started advocating for remote positions. When orders came down to go back to San Diego, Jamison was able to keep her job.
“I got promoted for the first time ever and was able to grow in that role,” she shared. “I was able to go back to D.C. for a Congressional Fellowship and I spent a year on the Hill. It all happened because I had a boss who saw the potential for military spouses.”
In 2019, she was named the Military.com Spouse Changemaker of the Year for her advocacy work.
Through her fellowship and work in Congress, Jamison connected with the Obama Administration and Joining Forces, a White House initiative to support military families. When the Biden Administration reconstituted Joining Forces and asked her to come on board as a detail from the VA in 2021 to support the program, it was an immediate yes.
“It’s been an unbelievable opportunity to work with Dr. Biden and the team for the benefit of military families,” she said. “I was able to work with our partners, not just at the White House, but DOD and DOL and USDA, agencies that you would not necessarily even think are engaged on this that are doing really great things, and we launched the first-ever Military Spouse Employee Resource Group government-wide.
Study after study found that military spouses were struggling with long wait times for licensure transfers and that around one in five spouses had a career field requiring a certification of some sort. Jamison and her partners got to work, alongside the Biden administration.
On her last day on detail to Joining Forces, she was on hand to witness the signing of the Executive Order on Advancing Economic Security for Military and Veteran Spouses, Military Caregivers and Survivors in June 2023. Jamison said she remains endlessly proud of the initiative and indicated that it will continue to grow each year.
Though Jamison has recently separated from her service member, her passion to serve those who serve has not waned.
“We want the agencies to be thinking about not just hiring but also the retention piece. A lot of what was included in there was things like administrative leave during a PCS, which was something that I had experienced. We shouldn’t have to use our vacation leave because our service member is being stationed somewhere new,” she explained. “So many of these things are not about giving preferential or special treatment to military spouses, it is about evening the playing field.”