The Time is Now: Calls for Action at the Military Spouse Employment Summit

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Hiring Our Heroes

The U.S. job market is hot.  

“Yet too many military spouses continue to struggle as they search for careers,” said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes, at Hiring Our Heroes’ 6th Annual Military Spouse Employment Summit, presented by USAA.  

“Today, we must move past words. Today, we must commit to action and impact. We need to leverage the incredible tools and resources to empower military spouses on their career journeys,” Eversole continued. “We need to work collectively across both the private and public sectors. And we need to ultimately deliver careers that our military spouses so richly deserve.”  

This year’s summit celebrated a decade of work building the coalitions, programs, and research that help stakeholders understand the barriers to meaningful and consistent employment for military spouses. Featured speakers at this year’s summit included Sharene Brown, spouse of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. 

At the summit, Hiring Our Heroes released the executive summary of the Hidden Financial Costs of Military Spouse Unemployment survey, conducted in collaboration with Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and First Command Financial Services.  

The report draws insight from over 4,100 military spouse respondents to identify how their employment experiences, specifically unemployment, impact their long-term financial futures. The research asked respondents about their participation in employer-sponsored savings plans such as 401(k) and whether they had the opportunity to be vested in these plans.  

“We thought it would be great to shine a light on this so we could start the dialogue and build a solution set on how we can address this issue so that military spouses are not harmed financially by their frequent moves between employers,” said Michael Immler, vice president of military affairs at First Command Financial Services, Inc.

IVMF Senior Research Associate Deborah Bradbard discussed the importance of identifying the financial impacts of frequent periods of unemployment for military spouses.  

“These impacts aren’t temporary; they are cumulative. It’s not one period of time when one is unemployed and is impacted. It’s each consecutive time that a spouse is unemployed. They are losing that income. They aren’t able to save for retirement because they don’t have income or they’re not vested in a plan. And that adds up over time,” Bradbard said.  

What makes this research a hidden topic is that typically the unemployment rate is the focus of discussion. Military spouses and their retirement planning are rarely the focus of a research study alone.  

And while this research shows the work that needs to be done, just the fact that this study was conducted illustrates the progress being made by Hiring Our Heroes and others to impact the financial wellness of military families positively.  

“I do think we are moving the needle,” Bradbard said. “When I came into this space, research wasn’t happening. Programs weren’t happening. We are moving the needle, but there’s much more we need to do.”  

She added that this financial impact faces both active-duty military spouses and veteran military spouses.  

“We need to get military spouses into jobs they can stay in – remote, flexible, and portable employment options are now opportunities,” Bradbard said.  

The Hidden Financial Costs report provides actionable recommendations for employers, support organizations, and policymakers to create economic opportunities for military spouses and address the long-term hidden financial costs of military spouse unemployment and underemployment. 

In addition to fireside chats and panel discussions, Hiring Our Heroes awarded four Impact Awards to businesses and individuals. 

  • Volunteer Award: Tracy Freedman
  • Small Business Award: Instant Teams 
  • Community Impact Award: State of Ohio 
  • Bonnie Amos Impact Award for Lifetime Achievement: The Honorable Cheryl Mason 
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