Filing for unemployment isn’t as complicated as it once was. If you are a military spouse that has lost a job due to PCSing with your service member, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. There are many factors that go into determining if you qualify along with how much money you can receive. Finding out if you do qualify and how much you may receive does not have to be difficult anymore as most states have this information readily available online.
There are now 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that provide unemployment insurance for military spouses that leave their jobs specifically to follow their service members on a new assignment.
Only Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota and Ohio consider leaving a job for this reason to be “voluntary” and therefore not a good reason for leaving a job under any wavier.
Ohio worked on legislation last year to include military spouse relocation due to a PCS to be eligible for compensation. It however stalled in the state House in November with some opposing the bill saying they are already borrowing money from the government and without asking for further funds, this would create a heavier tax on businesses.
When filing for unemployment, make sure you apply in the state in which you worked; not the state or country that you have moved to. If you worked in any of those 4 states that do not offer unemployment for military spouses, then you do not qualify unless there are other circumstances you can claim exemption with. A link to each state’s unemployment information is available here. If you are unsure whether you qualify or not, go ahead and apply anyway. You can always file an appeal if you are denied the first time.
Some states have a specific clause under qualifications for unemployment to account for military spouses relocating out of state while others simply have a blanket statement for any spouse that moves a specific distance from their current job to follow a spouse to their new job assignment. The latter is known as a trailing spouse and applies to any spouse, military or not. Both of these are considered a voluntary quit with good cause.
Many states do not spell out whether moving overseas qualifies or disqualifies a military spouse from receiving unemployment benefits. Each state has its own laws regarding unemployment. There are a few states that have laws that specifically exclude moves overseas however. If you can make a case that you will be able to apply for jobs in America while overseas, then you may be approved for unemployment benefits after all.
Remember that each state is different and that laws constantly change. If you did not qualify a few moves ago, don’t be deterred this time. Perhaps the laws have changed in your favor. For example, Virginia only passed the military spouse unemployment compensation bill in 2014 and Ohio is still considering theirs.
Not only does every state have its own rules for qualification, but they also have different steps you must take to get unemployment benefits. The amount of compensation you may receive and the duration of benefits may differ as well.
Before you leave your job, make sure you check your state’s guidelines first. While leaving your job early to prepare for a move or to take a vacation before you PCS may sound good, you may lose out on unemployment if you quit too early. South Carolina for example only allows a person to resign from their job 15 days prior to a move.
Things to know when filing for unemployment:
- Most states have a minimum amount of time that you must have worked in that state to qualify.
- The amount of money you will receive is based on a percentage of your earnings over the previous 52 weeks.
- Most states cap the amount of time you can receive unemployment benefits to 26 weeks.
- Unemployment benefits are taxed. You will have to report them on your federal income tax return.
- Filing for unemployment does not penalize your former employer. Unemployment insurance comes from the state’s general unemployment fund.
Go to your state’s website for unemployment and read all of the rules before you quit your job. When filing, you will likely need a copy of your service member’s PCS orders. If you leave a job in America to follow your spouse on their job assignment overseas, you may qualify for unemployment. You would need to be able to show that you are able to continue looking for work from an American business while you are abroad however.
If you worked while overseas with your spouse and have now received orders back to the United States you may be wondering if you can get unemployment that way. In some cases it is possible. You paid taxes on the money you earned abroad. Some of that money goes into the unemployment fund. You can apply for unemployment in your state of residency if you worked for an international company. If you worked for an American company while overseas, then you would apply for unemployment benefits from the company’s state of home office.