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Proposed Tax Credits for Employers Who Hire Military Spouses

kaine

By Debbie Gregory.

Every military spouse knows that finding employment is difficult, but a new bill aims to incentivize employers to hire them.

On February 27, the bill to provide a work opportunity tax credit for military spouses and to provide for flexible spending arrangements for childcare services for military families was introduced by Sen. Timothy Kaine.

The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act of 2018 would also give military families pre-tax savings accounts for child care expenses.

“The Jobs and Childcare for Military Families Act encourages businesses to step up and play a bigger role in hiring military spouses who already sacrifice so much,” Kaine said in a recent press release.

The tax credit for employers would be up to $9,600, and is the same one that certain veterans get. The value of the credit depends on how many hours the veteran worked and whether the veteran has a disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other factors.

The new bill would simply add “qualified military spouse” to the list of those for whom an employer could receive the credit. It defines “qualified military spouse” as the “spouse or domestic partner” of a member of the U.S. armed forces.

The numbers behind military spouse unemployment are staggering. According to  press release, “between 12 percent and 25 percent of military spouses are unemployed,” and Blue Star Families says that military spouse unemployment costs the U.S. economy almost $1 billion a year.

The press release went on to say the bill “…further addresses a real obstacle to professional success for many military families: access to quality, affordable child care. Addressing these issues will help military spouses advance in their careers despite frequent moves.”

The proposal would allow military families to have flexible spending accounts that they can add pre-tax money from their paychecks to pay for out-of-pocket childcare expenses.

“Again and again we hear from these spouses that the lack of childcare puts a big burden in their way in terms of finding employment. Childcare is so expensive that the childcare is going to cost more than your salary then you are not going to work, you’re not going to maintain your career, your profession during that time,” Kaine said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Spouse Professional Network – A Great Resource for Mil Spouses

mspn

By Debbie Gregory.

Supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN) is a program under the Hiring Our Heroes umbrella.  The program aims to have big impact in major military areas nationwide by funneling momentum for military spouse employment into action.

Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zones will focus on cities that already have spouse programs, pulling them together to create a one-stop-shop for job opportunities.

“We’ve identified specific locations across the country that have a commitment to supporting our military families, and identified communities where we are able to leverage our Military Spouse Professional Networks,” said Elizabeth O’Brien, the Chamber foundation’s head of military spouse programs.

Military families consistently identify spouse employment as a key concern. Programs like the MSPN help military spouses overcome some of the challenges of maintaining a career while also moving around with their military service member.

Formerly called In Gear Career, MSPN is a collection of locally based, in-person networking groups across the world that look to advance military spouse employment opportunities in their individual areas.

The volunteer-led chapters connect military spouses with other career-oriented military spouses, mentors, and employers. The Network currently has more than 40 local chapters throughout the U.S. and Europe.

If you need to build or update your resume, check out another Chamber of Commerce resource, Career Spark,  at https://mycareerspark.org.

If you’re job-seeking, or just trying to remain connected during a time when you’re not working, joining your local area Military Spouse Professional Network chapter can provide resources and the camaraderie of people in the same situation.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Wilkie Pushes for Culture Shift Within the Military

wilkie

By Debbie Gregory.

Robert Wilkie, the Department of Defense’s new undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, is shifting the emphasis of the military culture to create a more stable, family friendly environment.

Wilke is responsible for Total Force Management as it relates to readiness; National Guard and Reserve component affairs; health affairs; training; and personnel requirements and management, including equal opportunity, morale, welfare, recreation, and the quality of life for military families.

Wilkie understands that the constant moves made by servicemembers have a direct effect on their family members, limiting the career options of many military spouses, and prohibiting military children from putting down roots with friends and schools.

Wilkie, himself an Army brat, has walked the walk. He said, “If the families aren’t happy, the soldier walks.” Wilkie also serves in the Air Force Reserve.

Under the current system, troops are pushed out of the military if they don’t constantly advance along their career path. Wilkie said the Pentagon has come to the realization that it may need to change how the military operates in order to meet modern threats.

Wilkie credits growing up near Fort Bragg as great preparation for his new position. But he cites the readiness of the military as one of the issues that keeps him up at night. He said new planes are worthless if there are no people to maintain or fly them.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

2018 Defense Bill Addresses Troop Size, Benefits, Sexual Assault

2018 budget

By Debbie Gregory.

Congress’ annual defense authorization bill addresses some of the yearly basics, such as pay benefits and insurance coverage, but also spells out the rules regarding the topical subject of sexual assault and harassment.

In the benefits department, there is a proposed 2.4 percent pay raise for active duty troops. The raise will be needed to cover the increased cost of Tricare prescription costs.

Military spouses who get a new professional license or certification after a PCS will be reimbursed up to $500.

To address problems with sexual harassment and assault in the military and at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, military sexual trauma counseling and treatment will be broadened to be more inclusive. Special victims counsel will receive training to better assist victims of sexual assault, with an emphasis on the male victims, thought to be much more common than assaults on females, but much less reported..

In addition to the military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, a new article to the Uniform Code of Military Justice regarding “wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images” allows anyone charged to be brought before a court-martial.

This comes on the heels of the scandal involving active-duty Marines who shared nude pictures of female colleagues on a series of military-themed web sites. More than 40 Marines received some form of punishment for their involvement.

Also addressed in the bill are: Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance payments, which were due to end this year, but now are permanent for surviving military spouses; troop strength being increased by 20,000, with about ¾ of the number devoted to active duty troops, and the other ¼ devoted to the Reserves; mental health assessments as a part of the separation physical.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Sacrifices Made by Military Spouses

military spouse sacrifices

By Debbie Gregory.

It takes an extremely strong and selfless person to be a military spouse. While the sacrifices made by our military personnel are often acknowledged, military spouses are usually unrecognized and underappreciated.

Probably the biggest challenge military spouses face are their frequent moves, which makes it difficult for them to build their own careers. In fact, military families are far more likely to be living on a single income than civilian families. The financial impact of military nomadism is substantial.

Although the traditional narrative persists of the spouse who keeps the home fires burning, the reality is that many of the military spouses who work are underemployed, and most of those who don’t work are reluctantly unemployed.

If the military spouse does work, chances are it’s a job rather than a career, settling for jobs for which they are either overqualified or underpaid. And while it is good news that with the advances in technology, telecommuting and portable jobs are becoming more common, the bad news is that most portable work-from-home jobs that can be done remotely only page minimum wage or a little better.

Beyond the financial impact, military spouses who sacrifice their careers are also often suffering with self-esteem issues which can affect their identity and overall well-being.

The Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership is a federal program looking to improve the employment opportunities for military spouses.

The program seeks to strengthen the education and career opportunities of military spouses. This is accomplished in part by providing helping them understand their skills, interests, and goals.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

New Scholarship Focuses on Military Spouses

AMPA

By Debbie Gregory.

In May, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA) launched the AMPA Military Spouse Scholarship, a new program aimed to help military spouses pursue their higher education goals.

Non-profit AMPA is the nation’s largest resource and support network for the partners, spouses, families, and allies of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members and veterans.

“At AMPA, we are committed to education, advocacy, and support for our modern military spouses and their families,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. She continued, “This new scholarship program is a key tool in our mission to support those who are often overlooked and underappreciated. We are especially proud to welcome Hilton as this year’s presenting sponsor of the scholarship.”

Hilton is the new scholarship’s presenting sponsor this year. The scholarship will divvy up as much as $10,000 between five applicants with awards of between $1,000 and $2,500 each. The winners, who will be announced in July, are going to be selected by an impartial selection committee based on the applicant’s commitment to community service.

Founded by the partners of active duty service members, AMPA has grown to the strength of over 50,000 members and supporters and is proud to be leading the nation in education, advocacy, and support for today’s military families.

AMPA traces its roots to the “Campaign for Military Partners,” an unprecedented effort launched in 2009 to connect and advocate for the same-sex partners of service members living under the threat of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

We wish all of the applicants the best of luck! For more information on educational opportunities for mil/vet spouses, visit out education connection at https://militaryconnection.com/education.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Proposed Military Residency Choice Act Benefits Mil Spouses

The Military Residency Choice Act

By Debbie Gregory.

The Military Residency Choice Act, introduced by San Diego Congressmen Darrell Issa and Rob Wittman, will ease the tax burden on military families by allowing them to establish one consistent state of residency.

Active duty service members have always been able to keep one state as their state of legal residency (usually their Home of Record) for tax purposes even when they move frequently on military orders. It gets complicated when service members move, sometimes multiple times a year, because spouses are forced to establish residency in each new location.

The Military Residency Choice Act will allow military spouses, if they so choose, to establish the same state of residency as the service member, so that for any future moves, they will retain the same state for tax and voting purposes.

“The last thing our military families need is additional stress during tax season,” Rep. Wittman said. “Allowing military families to establish a consistent state of residency will give spouses the confidence to re-join the workforce when they move and help them better provide for their families. Our nation’s military is only as strong as the men and women serving and the families who support them. Passing this simple residency fix will send a strong signal to our military families that we have their best interests at heart.”

Military spouse unemployment becomes very expensive when you take into consideration the loss of federal income tax, the costs of unemployment benefits, and the costs of health care issues related to unemployment.

“Military families sacrifice a great deal for us all,” Rep. Issa said. “They’re often transferred from place to place, uprooting their lives each time they receive a change of station orders. Each transition requires difficult adjustments as they adapt to new schools, new jobs, new churches and new communities. They shouldn’t be burdened yet again when tax season comes around. This bill is an easy update that will simplify tax season for military families by allowing spouses to claim the same residency as their service members. It’s a simple fix, but it will go a long way to make life easier for those who have already given so much.”

Don’t you think this is the least we can do for military spouses?

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Spouses Are Not getting Fair Treatment

unemployed

By Debbie Gregory.

According to an Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) report entitled, “The Force Behind the Force: A Business Case for Leveraging Military Spouse Talent,” military spouses are not faring as well as their civilian counterparts.

There are more than one million active duty, guard, and reserve military spouses, more than 15 million veterans’ spouses, and an estimated 5.8 million surviving spouses of veterans in the U.S.

Yet, military spouses are largely overlooked as part of a talent pipeline.

The IVMF report, sponsored by Syracuse University and funded by Prudential Financial, was launched July 14, 2016. It is the first in a series of three research papers as part of an overall study on military spouse employment.

The report revealed that female military spouses earn significantly less than their civilian female peers

It also found that military spouses have a significantly higher unemployment rate (almost three times as many) as their civilian peers. When looking for reasons why there is this disparity, the report found that it was due to factors such as frequent relocations,  a lack of childcare, and the responsibility of single-parenting due to the absence of their active duty spouse

But employers may be missing out if they choose not to hire military spouses. As a rule, they are educated, motivated to work, and have numerous attributes that are valuable in the workplace.

“This research highlights that military spouses bring a variety of business enhancing characteristics to the workplace–such as diversity, resilience, adaptability and high civic-engagement–and offers a compelling business case to recruit and hire them,” said Dr. Nick Armstrong, senior director of research and policy at IVMF.

Additionally, each year, military spouses provide billions of dollars worth of free labor through their volunteerism.

It is often said that military spouses also serve. Their impact on military readiness and retention is invaluable.
“Military spouses are a great source of talent and an integral part of our talent pipeline strategy,” said James Beamesderfer, vice president, Veterans Initiatives at Prudential. “We know that more than one third of them say they are unemployed or underemployed. We want to help turn that around by providing them with meaningful career opportunities. That’s why we’re working with the IVMF to fund the research and share best practices with other employers.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

When Seeking Jobs for Veterans or Military Spouses, What Should You Wear to the Interview?

dressforsuccess

By Debbie Gregory.

When looking for jobs for veterans or military spouses, there is one question that always comes up: what do I wear to the interview?

A good rule of thumb is wearing a suit or an outfit that is a higher level than the job that you’re applying for. By dressing a notch or two above what’s standard apparel for the position you’re interviewing for, you’re demonstrating that you care about getting the job.

Additionally, dressing on the conservative side is always the safest bet. The last thing you want to do is stand out for something other than your personality and qualifications.

While a suit isn’t always required, it’s usually alright to inquire about the dress code when you set up the interview.

Even if the dress is casual, make sure your footwear is not. Closed toed, closed back shoes are the best choice for both men and women.

If you’re on a budget, make sure to take a second look at what is already hanging in your closet. While you may think what you have is outdated, often times your look  can be updated by accessorizing with a nice handbag, earrings or necklace for the ladies, and a nice briefcase, cuff links or tie for the men.

If you must purchase something to wear, stick to basic colors such as blue and gray so that your pieces will be timeless. Although black and brown can be worn, they are not as good of a choice.

Don’t rule out consignment shops that specialize in higher end clothing, as well as outlet stores.

The most important take away is make sure that whatever you buy fits properly. You don’t want to look unprofessional is a suit that hangs on you, and you don’t want to distract your interviewer with buttons that are pulling because the shirt or blouse is too tight.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Tech Companies Set High Veteran Hiring Expectations

space jobs

By Debbie Gregory.

Matching up veterans and transitioning service members with tech jobs makes sense, since many of those who have served have already utilized tech-related skills.

To that end, tech giants like Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and EMC pledged to hire 1,000 to 3,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. Additionally, GoDaddy and Seagate Technology have pledged to hire 200 to 500 veterans.

Joining Forces, the national employment and career development initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden now has five years of success. The program has resulted in 1.2 million veterans and military spouses receiving jobs and training.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose company pledged to make 25,000 veteran and military spouse hires said, “”We’re constantly looking for leaders who can invent, think big, have a bias for action, and who want to deliver for customers.” Bezos added, “Well, those principles look very familiar to the men and women who served our country in the armed forces. And also their spouses. These guys work hard and have lots of skills.”

SpaceX has a solid reputation when it comes to employing members of the military, and has been named one of the 10 best companies for veterans in the country. The company boasts a high percentage of recent hires who were veterans, as well as a 95% retention rate among hired former service members.

This talent pool has also worked in the most challenging and stressful environments imaginable.

At MilitaryConnection.com, we offer a multitude of resources for veterans and military spouses who are seeking employment, including our Virtual Job Fair and our Job Board.  We also spread the word to employers about the tax credits available to employers who hire veterans.

We salute and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.