Is Federal Spouse Hiring Preference Actually Useful?


"I made a life changing decision based on this program," Dr. Rita Mallia, an optometrist stationed at Walter Reed with her husband told me. "I would've never done that if I knew this program has all these loopholes."

Mallia spent nine years in school. She racked up huge debt in school loans. She has years of experience working for both DoD medical facilities and DoD civilian contractors.

And she cannot find a job in the Washington, D.C. area.

Part of that is to blame, she says, on the inconsistent at best and, at times, absolutely useless Priority Placement for Military Spouses (PPP-S) DoD hiring preference program.

From all accounts, Mallia has done everything right. She babysits the jobs posting site USAJobs like that itself is her job. She applies for positions like the pro she is. She has job history. She has professionalism. She has experience. She has great references. She is qualified.

She has everything  -- everything except an actual job.

She has been looking, applying, watching and waiting for two years.

“Every day,twice a day I’ve checked USAJobs for the past two years. I see if there’s anything in the commuting area,” she says.

When there is, she applies.

The federal government has two spouse preference programs. PPP-S only applies to DoD jobs. It gives spouses a competitive advantage on jobs on some jobs for two years after they PCS. You can read more about it and how to use it here. 

A second program, a noncompetitive hiring authority, allows spouses to be quickly hired to all federal jobs, not just those in the DoD. It, too, only applies up to two years after a PCS. You can read more about that here.

Mallia believes her major employment seeking mistake was trusting in the preference program. That’s why she’s workingwith Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, to question the system and try to make it better. You can read all about those efforts over here in my story on

Mallia contends that in almost every instance in which she applied for DoD optometry jobs in the D.C. area in the last two years, hiring officials got around the rules by opening and closing job postings for no apparent reason, by closing a job posting for “financial reasons” and then doing a sly direct-hire (with no chance her Mallia to apply) a few months later or, in one case, by failing to correctly refer her based on her preference.

Can you imagine how frustrating that must be? Or perhaps you’ve experienced it, too.

Since Mallia has landed federal jobs using the system in the past, and still can’t get it to work for her now, she’s worried about other spouses who are dealing with it for the first time.

“I know so much about this – I knew all the ins and outs of the federal system and if I am still here not being employed for so many years,” she said. “I’m worried about the other spouses out there.”

Mallia is far from the first spouse we’ve heard complain about the PPP-S program – or federal hiring in general. The process is cumbersome, difficult to navigate and so bug-heavy at times that spouse employment advisers often recommend that you come to their office so that they can walk you through it in person.

So we’re looking for your stories. Have you used the preference program? Were you able to get a job lickedy-split or have you had a similar experience to Mallia?

Leave your story in the comments.

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