Employment Challenges for Military Spouses

VETS’ work revolves entirely around veterans, in mission and practice. However, it’s not just veterans you serve; it’s also their families, specifically their spouses. Military service often requires relocation, which can result in less-than-ideal career opportunities for those married to active service members. Gaps in employment, inconsistent career paths, and preconceived notions about veteran families often prevent them from gaining meaningful, long-term employment.

Veteran spouse employment is yet another factor to consider when speaking about veterans’ financial situations and helping to provide services. It’s important to account for a veteran’s full situation—what is their familial situation? Do they have a spouse? How was that spouse impacted by the veteran’s deployment? Can their spouse also benefit from services? What can veterans learn from VETS to share with their spouses?

In a survey of over 10,000 veterans and active service members conducted by Blue Star Families, 62% of respondents reported having stress due to their financial situation; 52% reported that their spouse being unable to find employment was the greatest financial obstacle they faced; and 37% reported feeling insecure about their financial future.

The main problem is relocation. Companies are often unwilling to hire military spouses because of the chances a military spouse may have to move after being hired. If there’s no possibility for remote work, hiring a military spouse is seen as high risk.

Other problems can occur with military families abroad, where military spouses encounter language and cultural barriers. Employee marketability can only go so far if a spouse cannot guarantee long-term commitment or language fluency. Unsurprisingly, the problem primarily affects women—9 out 10 active military spouses are women—who are already disadvantaged with wage gaps and the motherhood penalty, a statistic that shows that after having their first child, a mother’s wage will not increase at anywhere close to the rate of a first time father’s wage.

Julie Bogen discusses these issues and more in her recent Defense One article, which includes not only an analysis of the challenges military spouses face searching for jobs, but also many eye-opening statistics from credible sources regarding what she refers to as “the dismal career opportunities.”

The issue has gained enough attention that some programs are starting to cater to military spouses exclusively. For example, licensed occupations are now widely accepted across the country for military spouses. If an insurance agent licensed in Virginia had to move to Florida, an exception could be made that allows her to keep her license, instead of getting a Florida license. WorkforceGPS has an excellent resource for military spouses seeking to carry licenses across state borders.

By understanding the barriers around employability, the challenges in job seeking, and the frustrations that are linked to these roadblocks, we can find ways to mitigate these issues, better serve veterans and their families, and even help change employers’ perceptions around veteran employability.