Military spouses face tough career hurdles

The Washington PostFebruary 14, 2014 

Ninety percent of female military spouses in a recent online survey described themselves as "underemployed," indicating they have more education or experience than needed for their current jobs, according to a new study released this week.

The analysis, from Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), included more than 2,000 female respondents with active-duty spouses.

Data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey also show that military spouses earn an average of 38 percent less personal income and are 30 percent more likely to be unemployed than their civilian counterparts, the study said.

The findings suggest military spouses face unique career hurdles because of their circumstances, especially as they move between states or abroad, encountering obstacles to licensing and finding new work.

Retired Vice Adm. Norbert Ryan, president of MOAA, said in a statement this week that the study's results demonstrate "a need for concerted efforts to improve the employment issues currently faced by military spouses."

A recent proposal from the Office of Personnel Management would relax the rules for military spouses to obtain career status, allowing them to become "permanent" federal employees with three years of service in the government instead of three continuous years.

Federal law also requires the Defense Department to give preference to military spouses for civilian jobs. But those individuals fall below disabled veterans, employees in the Equal Employment Opportunity program and workers returning from overseas in the federal hiring hierarchy.

Rosalind Maury, director of research for the Syracuse institute, said in a statement that she hopes the study will lead to additional programs and policies that could "help this community to overcome challenges they face in the pursuit of economic empowerment."

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