PCSing? File for Unemployment


You finally get the job of your dreams. You are working at it for a year or so and just getting comfortable. Then, whoosh -- the rug is pulled out from under your feet as your active duty spouse tells you you’ll be PCSing.

And you’ll be losing your job again.

Is there any sympathy for you? Yes and no.

DoD studies show working military spouses lose approximately six to nine months of salary per relocation. Forty-four states sympathize with that loss and let military spouses apply for unemployment compensation.

However, after MOAA wrote about this earned benefit on one of our blogs last year, we received comments that basically said spouses already know they will have to PCS and the “unemployment compensation is for people who don’t want to work.”

But this idea is simply not true. Working people pay for a portion of their unemployment compensation in the form of an unemployment insurance tax. These funds are there when they are needed: when jobs are lost through no fault of one’s own and not when people quit. Eligible people must be looking for employment to qualify.

Military spouses who quit their jobs before PCSing do so as the result of their active duty spouses receiving orders. Recognizing the issue, the National Conference of State Legislatures said, “Spouses of military service personnel who quit their jobs due to a military transfer may not be quitting ‘voluntarily,’ and state legislators have amended unemployment compensation laws to help military families who are relocating between states.”

Because military spouses move, on average, every two to three years, just staying together with your family can result in a significant loss of income. Fortunately, most states understand this and allow military spouses to receive compensation they not only have earned but also have paid for from the job they have left.

All military spouses should check whether they are eligible to receive the benefit. Each state has the right to set its own rules, so check with the state you are leaving. Here’s how it works:

-- Spouses are eligible as long as they meet general eligibility criteria.

-- Your employer will not be penalized if you file an unemployment claim. Compensation is taken from the state’s general unemployment fund.

-- Factors figuring into eligibility include: minimum hours worked, reason for leaving employment, geographical distance between employer and your new location, and whether you will pursue employment opportunities in the new location.

MOAA recently conducted a survey in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University and found:

-- 29 percent of respondents had been denied unemployment benefits in 2013 and 2014;

-- No one state had a high percentage of unemployment denials; and

-- Some spouses are deemed ineligible even though they relocated because of military orders.

The bottom line is this: Even though you might not always be deemed eligible for unemployment compensation, it is worth checking into. Unemployment compensation helps bridge the financial gap families face when they shift from dual-income to single-income.

Click here for more information on this topic.

Karen Golden serves as a Deputy Director, Government Relations (Military Family Issues).

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