Military Spouse Employment: It’s Time to Try Something Different

Military Spouse Employment: It’s Time to Try Something Different
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A quick Google search of “military spouse unemployment rate” yields nearly 7 million articles, op-eds, studies, and links to survey results.


From “The Dismal Career Opportunities for Military Spouses” to “The True Impact of Military Spouse Unemployment,” this topic repeatedly makes headlines, yet the unemployment and underemployment rates remain unchanged – or get worse, due to the pandemic’s impact on women in the workforce.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act]


The past decade has shown a marked improvement of resources and programs designed specifically for military spouses to boost education and professional development opportunities.

  • The My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Scholarship provides eligible spouses with up to $4,000 in financial assistance to gain licenses, certifications, complete national tests and associate degrees to pursue a career field.

  • Individual service departments now offer up to $1,000 reimbursement for licensing fees incurred because of a PCS move, and the Defense State Liaison Office continues to make strides in improving licensure portability through interstate compacts.

  • Military spouses have access to one-on-one career coaching services, a job portal, and an online library of digital content providing comprehensive resources and tools for all stages of career progression through the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program.

  • Numerous military and veteran service organizations continue to offer in-person and virtual professional development programs, such as MOAA’s “Keeping a Career on the Move” Military Spouse Symposium, Hiring Our Heroes’ AMPLIFY, and the Institute for Military and Veteran Families’ Onward to Opportunity (O2O), to name a few.


[RELATED: Apply for MOAA's MilSpouse Remote Telework Grant]


Military spouses are more educated than their civilian counterparts, according to a 2018 White House report, with a greater percentage of this population having college degrees or some level of college completed. Couple this with the number of resources and programs available to the military spouse community and one might think unemployment can’t possibly still be in the double-digit range.


The Next Steps

First lady Jill Biden has reignited Joining Forces and launched a new report with specific details outlining how making the federal government the “employer of choice” for military spouses will help address the unemployment rate. This report also addresses the shortage of affordable, accessible child care for military families.


In May, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), along with Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), introduced the Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act (S. 1532) to address military spouse unemployment and access to affordable child care. This bill would expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses and create dependent care flexible spending accounts (FSAs) for military families to reserve pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to cover out-of-pocket childcare expenses (a benefit provided to their federal civilian counterparts).  


The House companion bill (H.R. 148), introduced by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), also has bipartisan support. Similar legislation, the Military Spouse Hiring Act (H.R. 2974), introduced in April by Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), singles out the WOTC provision and has garnered wide bipartisan support with 62 co-sponsors as of Oct. 26.


These bills address one of the key issues impacting military spouse unemployment: the reluctance of businesses to hire someone who likely will move in two to three years. Incentivizing businesses to hire military spouses and providing the servicemember with a dependent care FSA will reduce barriers to spouse employment.


We need your help! Click here to contact your lawmakers today and urge them to support legislation addressing the military spouse unemployment rate. 


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About the Author

Jen Goodale
Jen Goodale

Goodale is MOAA's Director of Government Relations for Military Family Policy and Spouse Programs.