While much has been written about transitioning military finding jobs, not much attention has been given to the employment struggles military families face. There are two aspects to consider when looking at this problem, the issues faced by active duty military families and the issues faced by families of National Guard and Reserve (NG&R) families.
The military benefit system gives active duty soldiers extra combat pay, provides housing allowances and exempts them from certain taxes, but financial experts say active duty military families are straining under multiple deployments, frequent relocations and the difficulty spouses have in getting -- and keeping jobs -- in new cities.
Trying to support a family is tough in today's uncertain economic environment for both civilian and military families. To make ends meet, both adult members of the military family frequently have to work. Active duty military families have a tougher time than their civilian counterparts in finding work, as military families have to move frequently, thus causing the spouse to have to find a new job on a regular basis. Since the United States is still in an economic malaise, it is even more difficult to secure employment. The unemployment rate among military spouses is about 26 percent, according to a report from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
One of the problems of having to change jobs regularly is the military spouse may not be getting career type jobs, but rather, low-wage jobs to help make ends meet. Additionally, some employers are concerned about hiring a military spouse since the employer knows the military spouse will be transferred and thus not be able to serve as a long term employee. This frequently relegates spouses to accepting low wage jobs in fast food or retail.
A 2010 military survey found that 27 percent of service members said they had more than $10,000 in credit card debt compared with 16 percent of civilians who carry such debt. The study also found more than one third of military families have trouble paying monthly bills, and more than 20 percent reported borrowing money outside of banks.
These debts frequently necessitate active duty members to pick up a part-time job to augment the family income.
National Guard & Reserve Active Duty Family Employment Struggles
For the last 10 years, the NG&R has faced increased call-ups and multiple deployments. However, unlike their active duty counterparts, when a member of the NG&R comes back from a deployment, his income stops and he is considered "part-time" military. The active duty military person does not have to worry about cash flow when he returns from a deployment because -- by virtue of being on active duty -- he is paid twice a month. Not so for the NG&R component member. The NG&R member must look for work immediately upon returning if he wants to support his family.
Since NG&R members do not have to transfer regularly like the active duty member, their spouses can often obtain better jobs, but that is dependent on education, skills and location in the United States.
Due to the frequent call-ups by the NG&R over the last 10 years, studies from the Society of Human Resource Management and from Workforce Management indicate that over 65 percent of companies will not now hire an active member of the NG&R as a new employee. This makes it difficult for NG&R personnel to find a job upon returning. It also explains why many deployed NG brigades have had unemployment rates ranging from 30 percent to 68 percent!
There is no simple solution to this issue, but employers need to understand the unique problems faced by members of the active duty military and the NG&R and hire them. As a country we owe our military a job since they are the ones who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms and protect our free-market economy.