MOAA has backed the development of many DoD programs that are proven to improve military spouse employment opportunities and job portability. For example, the My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) Program provides scholarships to military spouses to help them start a career. A recent RAND study validated the effectiveness of this program on spouse employment and military retention. MOAA has actively advocated to expand this program to include more spouses and degree levels.
With one-third of military spouses working in licensed occupations, MOAA has advocated successfully for expansion of the licensure reimbursement program, increasing the reimbursement to $1,000 last year.
Both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) include provisions to consider continuing education units as a reimbursable licensure expense.
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MOAA is supporting the Senate version of this provision (Section 574), as the language would also allow military spouses to use the MyCAA scholarship for continuing education units and certain national testing. Additionally, the Senate provision clarifies eligibility for military spouses moving from overseas to stateside to participate in the licensure reimbursement program.
Initially, most of the military services denied reimbursements for spouses moving from overseas to a new state. The original legislation stated the program was for spouses moving “state to state” and did not consider spouses moving from another country. The new provision would ensure these spouses are eligible.
More Work to Be Done
Military spouses have not been spared the unemployment effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Far from it: According to the Blue Star Families and Association of Defense Communities Pain Points Poll, approximately 17% of military spouses lost their job due to COVID-19, adding significantly to an overall military spouse unemployment rate of 24% or four times the national average.
There is no silver bullet that can reduce the military spouse unemployment rate on its own. There are several factors such as job portability, child care, business incentives, and education that need to be part of the solution at a local, state, and national level. Last year, MOAA contributed to the Hiring Our Heroes A Collective Effort report outlining solutions at all three levels.
MOAA continues to fight to include military spouses as a target group for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, an incentive for business to hire from this population. MOAA also continues to urge the defense department to implement Flexible Spending Accounts for military families to make child care more affordable, thus allowing many military spouses to get back to work.