Senate Bill Moves the Needle on Addressing Military Spouse Unemployment

Senate Bill Moves the Needle on Addressing Military Spouse Unemployment
Military spouses practice introductions as part of an interview-preparation session during a spouse employment event at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Photo by Sara Vidoni/Air Force)

A bill designed to reduce the staggering unemployment rate among military spouses took a major step forward this week with its introduction in the Senate by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) alongside Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).


The Military Spouse Hiring Act (S. 3909), the Senate companion to H.R. 2974, would expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to create a new target group for military spouses, whose jobless rate has remained between 22% and 24% for over a decade.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Co-Sponsor the Military Spouse Hiring Act]


Congress established the WOTC in 1996 to incentivize businesses to hire members of select target groups who face significant barriers to employment. There are currently 10 target groups, including qualified veterans, ex-felons, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.


Employers who take advantage of WOTC receive a tax credit equal to 40% of up to $6,000 of wages paid to, or incurred on behalf of, an individual from one of the target groups in their first year of employment who performs at least 400 hours of work for that employer.


Military-mandated moves every two or three years have a significant impact on a spouse’s ability to find and maintain employment. Additionally, employed spouses often see their résumés discarded by future hiring managers due to the sporadic nature of work experience (different locations and jobs) and gaps in employment history resulting from short assignments (a school, for example).




Reducing the high unemployment and underemployment rates among military spouses will take a multipronged approach:

  • Programs and Resources: DoD must maintain and expand programs and resources focused on enhancing professional development, upskilling, and education.
  • Licensure Portability: The Defense-State Liaison Office must continue to develop interstate compacts for the multiple professions requiring licenses or certifications. The licensure/certification fee reimbursement program is a positive step toward addressing fees associated with PCS moves.
  • Incentivized Hiring: Businesses are reluctant to hire military spouses due to the short time they typically reside in one location. Including military spouses as a target group under WOTC is an important policy lever to address this reluctancy.


MOAA continues to work closely with colleagues at the National Military Family Association and Hiring Our Heroes to increase awareness of this important legislation – one more tool to address the military spouse unemployment rate. With nearly a third of servicemembers considering leaving the service because of concerns with spouse employment, this is not just an issue of family financial well-being — it’s a recruitment and retention issue.


Contact your lawmakers today and ask them to support the Military Spouse Hiring Act.


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About the Author

Jen Goodale
Jen Goodale

Goodale is MOAA's Director of Government Relations for Military Family Policy and Spouse Programs.