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New research outlines key recommendations for solving ‘The Military Spouse Employment Dilemma’

The National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), the premiere organization supporting the professional and personal growth of the nation’s military spouses, released its fourth annual National Military Spouse Network White Paper presented by USAA last month. The latest report, “The Military Spouse Employment Dilemma: The Multi-Million Dollar Question That No One Is Asking…Until Now,” includes key recommendations for addressing the barriers military spouses face in gaining employment and satisfying careers. This year’s report redefines the problem of military spouse unemployment from merely finding spouses a job to helping them move into a career they can grow into and keep. 

“When military members transition from active-duty service, they have access to a Transition Assistance Program, Skillbridge and employers who actively recruit veterans, looking to help apply their skills and expertise to their post-military career. And that’s just one transition. But the military spouse will experience this employment transition with every Permanent Change of Station (PCS) during a military member’s time in service. In many instances, this means foregoing a career, professional advancement, retirement, and savings benefits, as well as the fundamental ability to financially support the needs of their family,” said Sue Hoppin, founder and president of NMSN in a statement.

Sue Hoppin,
Founder & President of
National Military Spouse Network. (Photo source: NMSN)

With these struggles to gain and maintain employment, military spouse unemployment remains far above the U.S. rate, at a stubborn 24%.

The 2022 report identifies five key recommendations for reform and follows closely on NMSN’s collaboration with the Department of Defense (DOD) and its successful input into the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), recently signed by President Biden. For the first time, the annual NDAA included a recommendation for a study on military spouse employment resulting from the input and expertise of NMSN. 

“The solutions for military spouse employment will be found in refining the programs that already exist, adjusting or modifying existing efforts to better meet current needs, identifying gaps where programming is still needed, and getting rid of programs that do not work,” said Hoppin. “We cannot be afraid to do this; we must increase employment and provide business opportunities for the nation’s military spouses.”

5 Key recommendations for military spouse employment reform 

This year’s White Paper digs deep into the issues inhibiting military spouse employment, noting that the organization’s shared success will depend on the ability to bring other federal, state and military service organization partners to work on these challenges. The recommendations include: 

  • Ensuring that resources and programming serve the military spouse community and that the DOD establishes a standard set of metrics to evaluate programs and their impact across organizations – federal, state and local. 
  • Congress must study the inability of military spouses to benefit from financial vesting programs. This assessment should include matching programs of private employers vs. occupational professions as well as vesting timeline requirements and lost opportunities to accumulate retirement savings at the same rate of civilian peers unaffiliated with the military. 
  • Expanding utilization of the Department of State’s Domestic Employees Teleworking Overseas (DETO) Program, which would help ensure that military spouses who secure employment with a federal department or agency are able to maintain their employment during assignments overseas. 
  • Creating a Military Spouse Small Business Administration (SBA) Small-Business Concern classification to cover self-employed spouses. Though not codified into law, the SBA has taken steps to expand counseling, training and access to capital opportunities for military spouse entrepreneurs through their Office of Veterans Business. Designating military spouse-owned businesses as small business concerns could help provide spouses with the targeted support they need to move their operations with them as they move domestically or abroad. 
  • Congress should consider authorizing the development of a military spouse experience map that ensures employment benefits/resources are accessible to military spouses through each military lifecycle.
NMSN, military spouse employment

NMSN roundtable discussion. (Photo source: NMSN)

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“Military spouse employment and underemployment have been long-standing roadblocks to the financial security of many military families,” said Mike Kelly, assistant vice president of Military Affairs, USAA. “We are excited to see the great work of our friends at NMSN translate into tangible improvement and collective impact in the military spouse employment environment.”

The recommendations in the National Military Spouse Network White Paper represent a snapshot of today’s military spouse environment and will be the basis for 2022 programming, including invitation-only roundtables and other events and initiatives designed to enhance military spouse employment and career opportunities for the nation’s one million+ military spouses. 

Founded in 2010, the National Military Spouse Network delivers ongoing personal and professional development for military spouses by providing quality content, mentoring, networking opportunities and resources. For more information, visit www.nationalmilitaryspousenetwork.org

SOURCE: The National Military Spouse Network