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Lawmakers Demand Employment, Financial Reform For Military Families

In the earliest days of 2024, lawmakers are calling on the federal government to do more to improve military spouse employment and financial literacy for troops. Legislators have filed new bills and resolutions in January, and some efforts from the previous year are also being revisited in 2024.

New Bill Requires Military Financial Literacy Training

On January 9, 2024, Pennsylvania Representative Matt Cartwright introduced House Resolution 6920, the purpose being to amend federal law “to include training regarding financial protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act in certain financial literacy training programs for members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.”

This bill was created with bipartisan support and has a dozen co-sponsors. At press time, this bill is in the beginning stages of the process, and it’s unclear whether it will survive long enough to pass the House and move to the Senate.

It’s just one of many resolutions and bills that will be introduced on behalf of military families this year.

There is no summary of the resolution available at the time of this writing, but this bill likely refers to the types of in-processing, organizational, or unit training on financial issues.

The resolution seems to have been introduced with the idea that military members should have their rights and responsibilities under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act fully explained to them at some stage in their financial training, in-processing, or other formal instruction.

Related: Military Employment Benefits

Federal Employment Leave Policies

What does a federal government leave policy have to do with military spouse employment? The answer to that important question is in what happens when a military family gets PCS orders to a new base and the spouse must leave their federal job behind.

A pair of senators from both sides of the aisle have issued a bipartisan call for the DoD to change federal employment policy that would make it easier for a military spouse to relocate to a new duty station.

Stars and Stripes reports that Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Joni Ernst have joined forces to demand the Defense Department create standardized federal leave policies allowing spouses to take leave without pay rather than quitting the job.

Why is that move potentially so important?

When federal workers quit a job, it creates a “break in federal service, ” making it harder to get hired for another federal-level job. Eliminating a break in service via a leave of absence or other means creates a way to preserve military spouse jobs without needing a large budget.

A policy change would be a comparatively cost-effective move to save jobs.

A 2023 bill called the READINESS Act included similar measures but also mandated other features such as using remote work to accommodate military spouses relocating to a new duty station.

It was introduced as a House resolution and a Senate version of a bill under the same name also surfaced, but at press time neither of these 2023 proposals has made it past the preliminary stage, and some government watchdog groups give the READINESS Act under 10% likelihood of passing.

What’s the Issue?

At press time, there are some versions of these reforms present, but they are not uniformly available or equally distributed. Certain Defense Department agencies “now offer to move military spouses into a leave-without-pay status instead of forcing them to resign their job during a move” according to Stripes.com.

But standardization is lacking, at least under the current system.

As the Stars and Stripes article rightly notes, permanent change of station moves can make it tough for military spouses to maintain any employment, let alone a hard-to-get federal job.

According to Stripes.com, “For more than a decade, unemployment for military spouses has been higher than the national average, which is now less than 4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Military spouses have hit unemployment rates as high as 21% according to multiple sources.

Related: Military Employment Benefits

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.