New provisions eliminate geographic restrictions, a two-year eligibility requirement and occupational licensing rules that often left military spouses in low-paying jobs for which they were overqualified.
At its annual public meeting on Nov. 18, the Chief Human Capital Officers Council (CHCOC) reiterated its commitment to hiring military spouses, with the Office of Personnel Management announcing that it would finalize guidelines on noncompetitive hiring status for spouses by Dec. 31.
The rules are required under a May 2018 executive order and provisions of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The new guidelines will eliminate restrictions on consideration of geographic areas for military spouses and amend the hiring authority to apply to all spouses of active-duty military rather than only those who received permanent change of station (PCS) orders. They will also give hiring specialists and managers authority to noncompetitively appoint spouses of active duty military members, their widows, and spouses of disabled service members.
In a March 1 memo, OPM outlined how the hiring authority would do away with the previous two-year eligibility period for military spouses, which had been implemented to match deployment times and assist spouses seeking work, had turned into a bureaucratic hurdle. Military spouses experienced problems finding work that matched their skills and experience.
Because duty stations were often in areas where there was a limited supply and demand for jobs, spouses found themselves in a race against time to find jobs by the end of the two-year period before having to move on to a new duty station with their spouse, rendering their efforts to find work for naught if they had to reapply for eligibility at the next station. The new rules give military spouses more flexibility to move in and out of jobs.
“Now I’m able to use that, it gives me a leverage to use whenever we move,” said Annette Maldonado, the spouse of an Air Force member, program director at CXO Fellowship and one of several military spouses to speak at the meeting.
Joy Fisher, the wife of an active-duty Marine, said she found herself only able to break into federal government in 2006 through a student path, despite having over 10 years of experience previously working in the private sector as a human resources manager.
Each time she moved to follow her spouse to the next duty station, she found herself unable to find work equivalent to her previous job level.
"When we moved to Okinawa, Japan, I was only able to find work as an administrative officer, as a GS-7," she said at a military spouse panel presentation during the CHCOC meeting. "I took a $35,000 pay cut. It took me three years to work my way back up."
Chair of the Board of Veterans Appeals and wife of a retired Air Force member Cheryl Mason said that programs such as the DOD's Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) could provide additional support while OPM finalized its hiring guidelines.
The MSEP provided $4,000 to military spouses seeking to cover the costs of job training or education, through partnerships with agencies such as the VA and the Department of Agriculture, with more agencies expected to join.
"The federal government is learning, it's a process," said Mason. "We're moving the needle. But we'd like to see more of you."
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