by T.T. Robinson, Guest Contributor
You finally get the job of your dreams, and it’s time to move.
Or you can’t find child care.
Or your credentials aren’t accepted in your new state.
Or you started your own business and you can’t find a way to operate on post.
Or…insert one of a million other scenarios that military spouses continue to endure in the great plight of finding (and keeping) a job.
For me, the scenario was moving to Guam. I had a great job in Washington, D.C., and I (very wrongly) assumed I’d have no problem finding a job. When we got to island, I sent resume after resume after resume (after resume!), and I didn’t hear a thing. I finally found a position that actually aligned to my experience and was ecstatic to apply. I heard back from the hiring manager the next day and we excitedly discussed my knowledge, skills and abilities. We both knew I was the most qualified candidate that would apply; I’d done nearly the exact same job they were hiring for on the national level in D.C.
Then the hiring manager asked The Question.
“What brought you to Guam?”
I didn’t hesitate in telling him – I was proud of my husband’s service. I also didn’t think it would result in my interviewer responding, “Oh. We’ll let you know,” only to never hear from him again.
We all have (or know someone who has) had a similar experience. Fortunately for us, someone is listening:
This week Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018, hoping to stem the tide of military spouse unemployment.
Last week, I had the opportunity to tell my story (along with three of my co-advisors on the Military Family Advisory Network) at Senator Kaine’s announcement of his intention to introduce the bill.
At the event, Kaine talked about the national unemployment rate and how it compares to that of military spouses. Spoiler alert: Ours is much, much higher, and Kaine is committed to fighting that. Fortunately for us, he understands the struggles and complexities of military families firsthand; his oldest son is a married, active duty Marine.
While there are several facets to this legislation, and many involve commissioning studies in order to have more data points, there are 4 main foci of the bill:
Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018
This aims to bolster military spouses’ competitiveness in the job market by modifying federal hiring authority so that federal agencies can expedite the hiring of a candidate who is a military spouse. Additionally, it requires DoD to come up with a plan to increase the participation of military spouse friendly businesses in defense contracts. Last but not least, it encourages DoD to submit a plan on how to best facilitate military spouse entrepreneurship on installations…as in, how do you get a contract for one of those little kiosks outside the PX/NEX/BX? And how do we ensure you can actually earn a livelihood from said kiosk instead of paying an unreasonable amount for rent?
Continuing Education and Training
This pillar instructs DoD to evaluate how to expand and increase awareness of existing programs to military spouses, specifically the Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA). MyCAA provides an incredible opportunity to receive a non-competitive scholarship of up to $4,000 to pursue associate degrees, certificates, professional licenses and even the costs of recertifying credentials.
Child care is very near and dear to my heart as I was supposed to start a job 2 weeks after moving to our new duty station, only to find out it was almost a yearlong waiting list. Living far from family and not knowing a soul, too often, we have to choose between affordable, reliable child care or working.
This part of the bill instructs the DoD to examine ways to increase the number of cleared child care providers while ensuring DoD adheres to child care safety rules. So, another study, but I’m remaining cautiously optimistic that some headway will be made as they look at finding more options for child care.
Counseling and Transition Assistance
This part of the bill allows transitioning service members and their spouses an additional six months of access to Military One Source (currently limited to only six months after transition). This might not sound like a big deal, but every spouse I’ve talked to says that the six-month mark is right about the time the honeymoon of retirement sets in and the “needing resources” phase begins. An extension will be so useful for families. Additionally, this provision allows military spouses to attend Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) with their service members, allowing for smoother transitions to civilian life for the whole family.
Kaine hopes the Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 will be attached to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, with bipartisan support.
“It’s a military readiness issue,” Kaine said. “And of course all want to help our military spouses advance.”