Today U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), released a JEC report highlighting the challenges confronting military spouses in the workforce. The report entitled, "Strengthening Military Households by Decreasing the Barriers to Work", reveals an unemployment rate of 15 percent for military wives in 2010 compared to 7.3 percent for their civilian counterparts.
Standing in Pittsburgh today with spouses of servicemembers, Senator Casey also released a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to take up legislation he introduced to help military spouses more easily re-enter the workforce. Senator Casey's Military Spouse Job Continuity Act (S.697) would offer a tax credit to any military spouse who has to renew or transfer a professional license due to a military Change of Station order.
"As we support our armed servicemen and women, we must not overlook their spouses who also make great sacrifices," said Senator Casey. "I have introduced legislation to help alleviate this problem and I call on Senate leaders to act so military spouses can have greater opportunity to participate in the workforce and provide for their families."
Many military families depend on two incomes to sustain their households. However, frequent military relocations cause impediments to finding employment. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that one-third of all military members move each year. In 2010, 24.1 percent of military wives moved across state lines compared to only 2.4 percent of civilian wives.
Moves across state lines for military spouses in professions that require state-level licensing or certification can be particularly challenging. At least one-third of all military spouses work in these type professions and face re-certification requirements and licensing fees. These roadblocks can be time-consuming and expensive. The top professions for military wives include teachers, childcare workers and registered nurses. These professions are all subjected to licensing or certification.
Recertification and licensing expenses can cost several hundred dollars. Senator Casey's Military Spouse Job Continuity Act would provide a tax credit of up to $500 to any military spouse that must renew or transfer a professional license or certification. A 2008 Defense Manpower Data Center survey indicated that 40 percent of military spouses revealed that an "easier state-to-state transfer of license" would have been of great assistance during a move.
Senator Casey's letter to Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell is below:
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
Dear Senator Reid and Senator McConnell,
Today, the Joint Economic Committee will release a report entitled, "Strengthening Military Households by Decreasing the Barriers to Work." The report concludes that the frequent moves required of military families disrupt the career progression of many military spouses, especially those whose professions require state-level certifications or licenses. Last year, I introduced the Military Spouse Job Continuity Act to alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with receiving new credentials, and urge you to bring this bill to the floor as soon as possible.
Over the past four decades, families with dual earners have achieved faster rates of income growth than families with one income. As such, many military families have come to rely on both spouses working. With 60 percent of military members indicating that they stay in the same location no more than one to three years, the ability of their spouse to build their careers is hampered. In 2010, 24.1% of military families moved compared with 2.4% of civilian families. With one-third of military spouses in professions that require state-level licenses and certification, their ability to regain employment following each relocation is often slow and time consuming. During these transitions, families often lose income while waiting for certifications.
I believe we must strongly support these spouses who continue to make sacrifices for the nation. The Military Spouse Job Continuity Act (S. 697) would help military spouses' employment transitions by providing a tax credit up to $500 for any military spouse who has to renew or transfer a professional license or certification because of a relocation related to military orders. In some cases, relicensing can cost several hundreds of dollars. In 2010, the unemployment rate for military spouses was nearly 15 percent, seven percentage points higher than their civilian peers. This bipartisan bill now has 20 cosponsors in the Senate and 57 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. This tax credit recognizes that a working military spouse should not be unfairly penalized due to the requirements of the military lifestyle.
A spouse's satisfaction with his or her career plays an important role in the servicemember's decision to remain in the military. As elected representatives, we must recognize that families are an essential part of a strong military force. Therefore, I urge you to take up S. 697, the Military Spouse Job Continuity Act, when the Senate returns to session. Sincerely,
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator