New Legislation Could Help Military Spouses

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., prepares to attend a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting at the Capitol in Washington, on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

By Amie Knowles
March 23, 2022

Military spouses face difficulty in the job market, but a new bill could bring about change.

Spouses, children, and dependents of military personnel know the lifestyle pretty well, and sometimes that can feel rather isolating. In a way, with every move comes the process of starting over. Sure, your family’s still with you, but you’re forming new friendships, and potentially starting at a new school or looking for a different job in a new location. It’s worth it, but it’s hard. New legislation introduced by Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine could help.

Kaine, alongside Republican Sen. John Boozman from Arkansas, introduced the Military Spouse Hiring Act. If passed, the bipartisan legislation would amend the tax code to incentivize businesses to hire military spouses.

In America, military spouses often face higher unemployment rates compared to the national average. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), there are several factors that could make the employment hunt especially difficult. For example, those seeking employment in state-licensed fields may have difficulty due to moving multiple times in their careers. 

Some of the main licensing issues include: 

  • Taking time to acquire a license 
  • Facing uncertainty about the portability or transfer of a license 
  • A lack of temporary or provisional licensure options

There were nearly 479,000 people married to an active duty member of the military in 2016, and approximately 66% of spouses either had a job or sought employment. Out of those, 13% also served in the armed forces and 41% held civilian job positions. A total of 12% were unemployed, but sought a job.

The 2016 headcount expanded exponentially for other military spouse demographics, according to research published by the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families. There were more than one million active, guard, and reserve military spouses; more than 15 million military veterans’ spouses, and an estimated 5.8 million surviving spouses of veterans across the country. 

The university’s research also found that: 

  • 93% of active duty military spouses were female 
  • 74% of military spouses had children at home
  • 84% of military spouses attended college or another form of higher education, but 33% reported that they were underemployed despite their education
  • Military spouses moved 10 times more frequently than their civilian counterparts

As for the licensing issue, the researchers covered that, too. The study found that 35% of military spouses worked in licensed fields, and 78% of those people experienced an active duty move. Only 11% of those that moved acquired a new professional license or credential when they arrived at their new location. 

While military spouses face a host of issues in the job market, Kaine’s legislation could be a springboard for positive change. 

“Congress has a responsibility to take care of our service members, veterans, and their families,” Kaine said. “That means helping America’s talented military spouses, who consistently make enormous sacrifices for our safety and security, access a wide range of work opportunities. Expanding the Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a commonsense step to help make that happen.”

Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) also took part in the bill’s introduction, and Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-NY) introduced companion legislation in the US House of Representatives.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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