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Joining forces to support military spouse education and employment

December 2011/January 2012 - Navy
By Ms. Katie Savant

Today’s military spouses are skilled, diverse, and motivated, with sound work values and a strong work ethic. And because of the unique military lifestyle, military spouses need targeted support to enable them to pursue their educational goals and career ambitions. According to the Department of Defense (DoD) Military Community and Family Policy office, military spouses are young, tech-savvy, mobile, and more educated than their civilian counterparts. Here are the statistical facts:

  • 95% of the 1.2 million military spouses are women.
  • 85% of the military spouses want or need to work.
  • 750,000 active duty spouses – over half are under 31 years old.
  • 400,000 Guard and Reserve spouses – over half are over 35 years old.
  • 26% unemployment rate – 1 in every 4 military spouses is unemployed and looking for work.
  • 84% have some college, 25% have a bachelor’s degree, and 10% have an advanced degree.

Through the Joining Forces initiative, DoD programs, and Congressional support, military spouses have more educational and career opportunities than previous generations. Joining Forces is a national initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden that mobilizes all sectors of society to give service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. Both public and private partnerships are beginning to understand the strain on the families of the all-volunteer force and are stepping up to provide support.

Education Opportunities

Many military spouses are eligible for military-specific financial assistance, including the Department of Defense (DoD) Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA), in-state tuition, and the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

MyCAA is open to spouses of service members in the pay grades of E1-E5, W1-W2, and O1-O2. MyCAA accounts provide a $4,000 maximum benefit with a $2,000 fiscal year cap. Funding is limited to an associate’s degree, certification, or licensure programs. Full eligibility criteria and applications are available on the Military OneSource Web site at www.militaryonesource.mil/.

Spouses of active duty service members who attend a public college or university are eligible for in-state tuition rates in the state of the service member’s domicile or permanent duty station. Additionally, spouses who maintain continuous enrollment retain in-state tuition eligibility even if the service member is transferred out of state. This allows a military spouse to avoid more costly out-of-state student tuition fees.

The third educational opportunity is the transferability of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If the service member is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit and is still on active duty, the service member may be entitled to transfer all or a portion of the benefit to a spouse. To be eligible, service members must have served in the Armed Forces for at least six years and agree to serve four additional years from the date of election to transfer. The service member must first contact the VA to establish transferability and then submit a transferability application through the Transferability of Educational Benefits Web site, located at www.dmdc.osd.mil/TEB. For detailed information please visit the VA Web site at http://www.gibill.va.gov/.

New Military Spouse Employment Opportunities

Military spouses want an educational program that will lead to a career. Two recent program developments aimed at helping military spouses find employment include the Military Spouse Employment Partnership and Executive Order 13474.

The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) has 93 partners (and counting) and is designed to connect corporations who have portable career opportunities with military spouses. Numerous Fortune 500 Plus companies (“plus” refers to local companies) have pledged to hire and retain military spouses. Military spouses interested in employment opportunities may visit the MSEP job board located at www.msepjobs.com.

Executive Order 13474 provides federal employment options for certain military spouses. Starting September 11, 2009, federal agencies may hire military spouses for noncompetitive appointment in the civil service under three conditions:

  • If the service member is transferred to a new location through a permanent change of station (PCS), not training;
  • A spouse of a 100% disabled service member injured while on active duty; or,
  • The unremarried widow or widower of a service member who dies while in active duty status (does not need to be combat related).

PCS eligible military spouses are eligible for noncompetitive appointment for a maximum of two (2) years from the date of the service member’s permanent change of station orders. Spouses interested in employment opportunities under this authority should explore OPM’s USAJOBS Web site at www.usajobs.gov. The military spouse noncompetitive appointment is not a hiring preference; agencies can use a noncompetitive hiring authority at their discretion. With the commitment from the federal government, robust DoD programs, and pledges from private companies, this is a key time for military spouses to pursue their education and career and hopefully reduce the unemployment gap between military spouses and their civilian counterparts.


About the Author: Ms. Katie Savant joined the National Military Family Association Government Relations staff as a Deputy Director in July 2008. However, she began her volunteer work with the Association in 2004 when her civilian husband joined the Marine Corps. When a permanent change of station brought Ms. Savant and her husband to Virginia, she immediately applied for a position with the Government Relations team. As a Deputy Director, Ms. Savant has immersed herself in the issues of financial literacy, military housing, relocation, spouse education and employment, deployed family support, and other quality-of-life issues.

Ms. Savant represents the Association at Congressional hearings. She’s a co-chair for The Military Coalition Morale Welfare & Recreation, Military Construction and Base Realignment & Closure Committee. Ms. Savant writes weekly for the Association’s Web site and contributes articles to military family publications.

Ms. Savant has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Regis University in Denver, CO. She also has a postbachelor’s American Bar Association approved Paralegal Certificate from Denver Paralegal Institute.

(Her complete biography is available upon request at Katie.Savant@nmfa.org)

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this is a key time for military spouses to pursue their education and career and hopefully reduce the unemployment gap between military spouses and their civilian counterparts. Newsmy NP711

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