ARLINGTON, Virginia -- The Trump administration plans to continue efforts to address military spouse unemployment and underemployment through a White House summit of business leaders slated for May 14, Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, told a group of military spouses Wednesday.
Pence, who over the last 15 months has backed a series of White House efforts to highlight military spouse employment challenges, spoke to a group of several hundred spouses at the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year town hall here.
"I'm here today, and I'm excited to pay a debt of gratitude to what I call our 'home front heroes,' to all of our military spouses for your invaluable contributions to our nation," she said.
Pence said the group of leaders from 46 businesses will convene next week so she can "ask their help in addressing the high rate of unemployment and underemployment."
Estimates of the military spouse unemployment rate range from about 16 percent to 24 percent nationwide.
"I mean, that is just not right," she said. "We believe that it is imperative that we support our military spouses ... because you play just as an important a role as your spouse."
President Donald Trump last year issued an executive order directing federal agencies to increase military spouse hiring. The White House has also backed programs to assist spouses with transferring professional licenses across state lines, an effort previously championed by officials with former President Barack Obama's Joining Forces initiative.
Pence said she chose the spouse employment issue as a central focus after conducting listening sessions with military spouses at U.S. bases worldwide.
"I hope you know we didn't just jump in and say, 'Oh, we're going to solve military spouse problems,'" she said. "We really felt that it was important to go around and listen to spouses. ... I just want you to know, after listening to some of the struggles and some of the great things that are happening to military spouses, we see you, we thank you, we appreciate you and we stand with you."
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.