New Bill Addresses Military Spouse Unemployment

Although military spouse unemployment is not federally tracked, it’s estimated at between 12 and 30 percent, and is a contributing factor in why military families frequently face financial insecurity. In addition, it’s widely believed that military spouses are chronically underemployed (underpaid or have skills that are underutilized compared to their training) due to the rigors of military relocation.

A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to help military spouses with more opportunities to gain employment. The Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 (introduced on February 6, 2018 by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)) expands hiring and career opportunities, addresses access to continuing education programs, increases access to affordable child care, and provides for better transition and employment resources for military spouses.

###Boosts Military Spouses’ Competitiveness in the Job Market

• Modifies federal hiring authority so that federal agencies can expedite the hiring of a candidate who is a military spouse. “In a lot of areas, military bases and around the country and around the world, some of the best jobs right where the bases are, are federal jobs. Federal agencies that are co-located or close to military bases. We want to create expedited hiring authority for military spouses, much like we do with veterans to enable them to get these good jobs more quickly,” Kaine said.

• Requires a plan from the Department of Defense (DoD) to increase the participation of military spouse friendly businesses in defense contracts

###Supports Military Spouse Entrepreneurship

• Acknowledging the hurdles military spouses face starting small businesses on military installations, this legislation encourages the DoD to submit a plan on how to best facilitate military spouse entrepreneurship on base installations.

###Expands Continuing Education and Training

• Instructs the Department of Defense to expand educational opportunities for military spouses.

• Instructs the DoD to evaluate how to expand and increase awareness of existing career training programs to military spouses.

• Ensures installation career counselors have the most helpful information for spouses and ensuring spouses are aware of the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA), which provides scholarships for spouses to pursue associate degrees, certificates, and professional licenses or cover the costs of recertifying credentials after relocation.

###Increases Access to Affordable Child Care for Military Families

The DoD must examine ways to increase the number of cleared child care providers. Ensures DoD adheres to childcare safety rules and requires the DoD to assess whether each duty station is allotted the right number of childcare subsidies for the number of families requesting them.

###Expands Counseling and Transition Assistance

The bill provides military spouses with training and resources to ease transition to civilian life.

• This bill makes permanent military spouses’ access to Military One Source (MOS) resources for a full year, instead of just six months. Military One Source is a 24/7 resource for education, personal finances and other employment assistance. It provides non-medical mental health counseling, career help and life coaching for veterans and military families’ transitions to civilian life.

• Requires Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) to make space for military spouses to attend classes with their spouse when appropriate, i.e. on financial planning and family readiness (currently only allowed on a space available basis). It also establishes a new spouse-specific TAP program to address transition issues unique to spouses.

Kaine expects the bill to be rolled into the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation is endorsed by Blue Star Families, Military Officers Association of America, National Military Families Association, the Military Family Advisory Network, and The American Legion.