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By Kathryn Troutman

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Three cheers for the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018

As any military spouse will tell you, being married to the military with moving up to 10 times in 20 years, can make it almost impossible to have a career for the spouse. As any military spouse will tell you, being married to the military is like living the life of a gypsy family? Moving every two to four years, new location, new state, new country and new job or new volunteer job at every location.


And for too many spouses, maintaining even the semblance of a career is a bridge too far. Roughly 12 percent to 24 percent of military spouses want to work but are unemployed, compared to 4.1 percent of American workers overall. That’s a shameful inequality.


The leaders of our Armed Forces have long recognized the hardships of military family life, and they’re very concerned about the effects on retention of career servicemen and women. Existing responses to the problem are only very partial solutions. There’s the spouse hiring preference available through Executive Order 13473 and Program S, and the financial support of MyCAA, the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program. But sad to say, awareness of these programs is sorely lacking. Many military spouses don’t even know that they exist.


Now, in 2018, there is new hope for better solutions for our ambitious military spouses and their families. That hope is embodied by the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018, a bill sponsored by Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, co-chair of the Senate Military Family Caucus and father of a Marine. The proposed legislation is co-sponsored by two U.S. senators who are mothers: Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Patty Murray of Washington. Kaine anticipates that the bill will eventually become part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.


A key provision of the bill would give federal organizations more authority to fast-track the hiring of military spouses. It’s often the case that federal jobs are the best career opportunities on or near a military base.

The legislation, if enacted, would improve military spouses’ access to career training and scholarships and provide transition counseling, while also boosting professional training of career counselors at military installations.

The law would support spouses’ efforts to achieve professional recertification when they move from state to state; this would include financial assistance with professional recertification and credentialing exams.
It’s no small thing that the law would also promote greater access to child care, a key career enabler for military spouses with kids at home.

The bill mandates that the Defense Department study the feasibility of allowing spouses to run their own businesses on base and enabling those businesses to operate without paying excessive fees.

Finally, the bill directs the Defense Department to expand awareness of these programs with publicity measures such as an online advertising campaign.

You can track the progress of the Military Spouse Employment Act here.

Posted by Kathryn Troutman on Mar 21, 2018 at 7:19 AM

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