Unemployment compensation may ease financial troubles after PCS
By SARAH PEACHEY
More than 14.5 percent of the military spouse population moves across state
lines every year, compared to just over one percent of civilian spouses, according to
a 2010 population survey. It’s safe to say that military families move a lot, mostly
every two or three years, but sometimes more frequently. Often times, spouses
choose to accompany their service members as a way of keeping the family together
to ease the transition for everyone, but it can come at a price.
The Department of Defense estimates that “working spouses lose
approximately six to nine months of salary per relocation,” according to the Military
Officers Association of America. That extra income often helps to ease child care,
housing and other costs in addition to the service member’s pay. When gone, it can
stretch household budgets beyond their limits and force families to reconfigure
budgets in advance or face financial problems. The Defense Manpower Data Center
Status of Force Survey of Active Duty Members found that 77 percent of military
spouses say they want or need to work.
For those who are concerned about their budget after a move, there may be
some help available. Numerous states have adjusted their unemployment laws to
allow spouses of active duty service members to collect income for a period of time
during and after a Permanent Change of Station move as long as spouses left their
jobs due to a PCS. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia provide military
spouses eligibility to collect unemployment compensation. The only states with no
legislation at this time are Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota and
Ohio and Wyoming.
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Before states changed their laws, unemployment benefits were not available
to those who quit their jobs voluntarily, but the concept of voluntarily leaving a job
as a military spouse is a little different. According to the National Conference of
State Legislatures, “recognizing that spouses of military service personnel who quit
their jobs due to a military transfer may not be quitting so ‘voluntarily,’ state
legislators have amended unemployment compensation laws to help military
families who are relocating between states.” The idea is that military families face a
lot of stress due to deployments and PCS, so they often remain together to make
transitions easier. But leaving a job knowing a spouse will lose, in some cases, a
decent amount of income can add to the stress.
Those who are interested in seeking unemployment compensation should
first check the guidelines of the state in which he or she was employed, as each state
has its own requirements, compensation and process.
Spouses should apply for unemployment in the state in which the spouse
was employed NOT the state he or she is moving to or the state of which he or she
is a resident. In some cases, spouses may be able to receive unemployment
compensation from the state they PCS to if the state they left does not offer benefits,
though this may be rare or require other special circumstances.
It is important to note that spouses who leave their jobs before PCS orders
are issued will likely be denied, as the spouse chose to quit before knowing if or
when the PCS would occur. These unemployment compensations are only for
spouses who specifically quit their jobs to move with their service members for a
This is news that can help some family budgets last a little longer until the
spouse is able to find other employment in a new state. For more information on
military spouse unemployment compensation go here and click on the state in
which you were employed.
Information for this article was provided by the Military Officers Association of
Sarah Peachey is a 20-something journalist from Pennsylvania, back in the Mid-Atlantic after voyages to the Deep South and Southwest. She lives with her husband, toddler and newborn. She began a career in journalism with The Fort Polk Guardian, an installation newspaper, winning three state awards for her work, and she now freelances for military spouse support sites and consults for MilitaryOneClick. She has a passion for politics and fiery debate. She considers herself a bookworm, pianist, wine enthusiast and crossword addict.