I am FOR Military Spouses

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In case you were wondering why we have not updated the blog in a bit, I moved to Kansas and went out of the country for a destination wedding! I am back and looking forward to keep your career going in the right direction.

I read this article wrote by one of my collegues and thought and wanted to share it with you!

I am FOR Military Spouses
By Anne Wight, GCDF and CFLE (retired)
MSCCN Cofounder and Director, Program Quality Control

At times, I feel as though I have to explain that just because I am FOR military spouses, I am NOT against military members or veterans. Let me explain.

When I received the Sunday paper newspaper on July 4, 2010, I opened immediately to the Careers section. The largest headline on the front page of that section was about helping veterans find employment. I was very pleased that those who have served our country are getting assistance after their military careers, especially during these difficult economic times and high unemployment. That thought of appreciation was immediately followed by “Why aren’t more people helping military spouses with their employment?” That is a very persistent thought for me and sometimes makes me appear to be anti-military member or veteran because I am so passionate about helping military spouses to find suitable employment. I am FOR both, but since military members and veterans receive a lot of support from a myriad of government, commercial, and nonprofit organizations, I am more concerned that military spouses are not receiving the support they need.

Studies funded by the federal government over the decades have shown that military spouses face higher unemployment and under-employment than their civilian counterparts. Recent studies have shown that military spouses overall have higher education levels than their active-duty military member spouse. (See my earlier article online at http://www.msccn.org/PDFs/3Threats.pdf.) That indicates to me that military spouses value education highly and/or use their times of unemployment to add new skills and experience to help their chances for employment in the future. I was very happy when I learned of the Career Advancement Accounts for education and was one of the few not surprised when funds were strained by so many military spouses requesting educational funding.

Let’s look at some interesting statistics. According to the Bureau of Labor Standards (above) http://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2010/veterans/, the overall unemployment rate for non-veterans is 9.1% while the overall unemployment rate for all veterans is lower at 8.1%. I truly wish the number for veterans was under 2%, but am deeply disturbed that most studies reveal that military spouses have a much higher unemployment rate that is three times the rates of their civilian counterparts. Estimates put the rate right now at almost 30%!

When I was working for the Air Force at HQ Air Mobility Command, I proposed that the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) be extended to include military spouses as a verified group experiencing higher unemployment rates than the general population. The WOTC is a Federal tax credit incentive that the Congress provides to private-sector businesses for hiring individuals from twelve target groups who have consistently faced significant barriers to employment. I was told that a similar request had been submitted and rejected for Reserves and military spouses could not receive benefits that others did not receive. A few years later others received benefits:
“… introduced by P.L. 110-28 — apply to new hires who begin work for an employer after May 25, 2007 and before September 1, 2011 … the Qualified Veteran group was expanded to include certain “disabled veterans,” and …
Qualified Veteran. …
Unemployed Veteran: Veterans who are certified as: (1) having been discharged or released from active duty at any time during the five-year period ending on the hiring date; and (2) being in receipt of unemployment compensation under a state or federal law for not less than four weeks during the one-year period ending on the hiring date. **The term veteran is defined as: (1) having served on active duty for a period of more than 180 days; or (2) having been discharged from released from active duty for a service-related disability.” http://www.vets4veterans.com/wotc.htm

Once again, this is great for our military veterans! I am so glad that they are now receiving this extra support. You can view the official brochure with the new WOTC groups online at http://www.doleta.gov/business/incentives/opptax/PDF/WOTC_Program_ARRA_Brochure.pdf

My hope is for military spouses to also be included as a group. And it may become a reality soon because Senators and Congressmen have introduced legislation several times in the past few years to do so. “The Military Spouses Employment Act of 2010, S.3232 and H.R.4764, seeks to provide employers a new tax incentive to hire qualified military spouses. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C, introduced the bill in the Senate, while Congressman John Carter, R-TX, sponsored the House version. The bill is co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of 12 Republicans and 5 Democrats.”
http://www.lawupdates.com/summary/labor_legislation_to_increase_employment_of_military_spouses/

Other interesting studies have revealed that for married active duty members, it is a family decision to stay in or leave the military. “Many members marry in their early years of service, and a significant percentage of these leave in mid-career years. The decision by a member to stay in, or leave, the military presumably takes into account his wife’s career prospects and career aspirations in addition to his own. Wives who believe their career opportunities to be greater outside the military will influence members to leave the military, other things being equal. In particular, wives with a stronger interest in the labor market will influence their husbands to leave the military if they believe labor market opportunities are greater outside the military. This helps explain the decline with age in the fraction of military wives who work during the year. In addition, of the wives remaining with the military, the ones with a weaker attachment to the labor force tend to withdraw from it.” http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB7555/index1.html

This sheds light on two other negative aspects for the military spouse:

1. “Constantly worrying about losing your job may be worse for your health than actually getting laid off or being unemployed, according to a study published in the September issue of the journal Social Science and Medicine. … sociologists from the University of Michigan and the University of California at Los Angeles found that the persistent stress of not knowing whether you’ll be employed the next year was strongly correlated with people reporting both poorer health, and higher incidence of depressive symptoms.”
Comment found on http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/how-long-have-you-been-at-your-job-if-you-have-one/

Military spouses KNOW they will be losing their job with the next military relocation and also know that getting a new job is an extremely difficult task. They worry constantly about unemployment in their future.
2. “Frequently changing employers can make it more difficult to save for retirement. The median job tenure of American workers was 5.1 years at the same job in 2008, according to a new study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Many pension formulas reward long-term and highly paid employees more than workers with a shorter job tenure. Some job hopping workers also move in and out of retirement plan coverage throughout their career and cash out small 401(k) balances when they change jobs, both of which lead to smaller retirement account balances.” http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/planning-to-retire/2010/01/15/why-job-hopping-makes-you-worse-off-in-retirement
I was extremely fortunate to get a position in the federal government while overseas in the early 1980s, just before my divorce from my first husband, an AF officer suffering from undiagnosed PTSD from his Vietnam combat experiences. It was not until the 1980s that the Air Force Blue Ribbon Panel on military spouse issues met and decided that officers’ wives could choose to work or not work outside of the home. Until that event, AF officers’ wives were expected to volunteer on the military installation to support the military and their husband’s career. The Officer Effectiveness Rating (OER) even had a block to check if the wife volunteered to support the officer!

(Air Force Times, March 28, 1988)

Those years not working (I wanted to use my degree) and without any retirement system, including Social Security, hurt me a great deal financially, and has now also hurt my current husband, another Air Force officer (retired), as he and I retire.

Many military spouses sense that employers look at them as “job-hoppers”. Studies validate that the majority of military spouses tend to be younger when compared to their counterpart civilian job seekers. Almost 72% of active duty military spouses are under 35. http://cs.mhf.dod.mil/content/dav/mhf/QOL-Library/Project%20Documents/MilitaryHOMEFRONT/Reports/2008%20Demographics.pdf

The Department of Labor states that “The average person in the U.S. holds around 9 jobs from age 18 to age 34.”
http://www.bls.gov/opub/working/page13b.htm

Military spouses are not changing jobs more often than their counterparts based on age! And when they do change jobs, it is normally because of a relocation requirement, not because of a whim or performance issue.

Yes, veterans truly deserve the support of a grateful nation for their service. I don’t want to diminish that support in any way. I do want to increase the awareness of employment issues faced by military spouses and hopefully, to garner more support for them.

I searched using Google and then Bing for the words shown below. I had to use the exact phrase for Bing since they included “military” by itself in the overall search for military spouse employment. Those results as well as what happened when I searched for Oversea Military Care Packages are below:

Military Veteran Employment” vs. “Military Spouse Employment” Search Results:

Google:

Military veteran employment = 3,290,000 results

Military Spouse employment = 195,000 results

Overseas Military Care Packages = 2,030,000

Bing:

Military veteran employment = 11,300,000 results

Military Spouse employment = 156,000 results

Overseas Military Care Packages = 3,900,000 results

Many military supporters rally others to gather and send care packages for our troops overseas. That is wonderful! Isn’t there a way that even 10% of those people could also find ways to support military spouse employment?

Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the employment rates for military spouses? Please email askus@msccn.org and share your thoughts.

Thank you to everyone who helps military veterans AND military spouses.

I ask employers seeking great employees to please stay educated on military spouse employment issues and support military members in a way that helps their families in multiple ways for many years – hire their military spouses!

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