In the 18 years I’ve called myself an Army wife, we have PCSed 9 times. In those same 18 years, I’ve held 16 different jobs and a handful of temp positions.
Up until recently, the longest I had ever a job with the same company was 2 years. Some of that transition was thanks to low pay or lay-offs. Other jobs came and went because of our expanding family.
But the vast majority of jobs lost (and gained) have been because of a PCS.
As if picking up and moving from one side of the country (or world) to the other isn’t stressful enough.
No, there is nothing like worrying about making ends meet while searching for your next house-to-call-home, unpacking your household goods, and just getting a general lay of the land.
Want to find something that utilizes your skill set and offers competitive pay too? Teleporting to Mars might be easier.
Thankfully, most states recognize the unique and transient nature of our particular lifestyle. State legislatures have eased or expanded unemployment benefits to include military spouses who voluntarily leave jobs to follow active-duty service members.
While your unemployment benefits won’t finance a tropical vacation or help put a new car in the driveway, they can help to ease the financial strain of a lost job and give you a little more time to get settled.
What Military Spouses Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits
When we PCSed for the first time, the internet was barely a thing. And Google, well, it was just a number. If a PCS is in your future (when is it not?), then while you are scouring online rental listings and local happenings, carve out a few minutes to check out unemployment benefits for your state.
Remember, unemployment is filed in the state where you are currently employed, not the one you are moving to.
Forty-six states offer some kind of unemployment benefit to military spouses (only North Dakota, Ohio, Louisiana, and Idaho do not.) But, every state is different in its requirements, so don’t just assume you’ll qualify. Check out this list for links to unemployment information in your state.
Get Familiar with Dates and Requirements Related to Unemployment Benefits
While researching eligibility, pay special attention to deadline and cut off dates and requirements for seeking employment once you reach your new duty station. Some states allow trailing spouses to terminate employment 30 days prior to the report date printed on your orders, for others it may only be 15 or 10 days. Plan accordingly.
Also, pretty much every unemployment program requires that recipients be actively searching for a new job. Often there are weekly or bi-weekly reporting requirements.
If you are planning on taking vacation in conjunction with your PCS move, make sure you schedule some time to begin your job search while you are enjoying your time off.
Make Copies of Your Service Member’s PCS Orders
To qualify for unemployment under the military spouse or trailing spouse option, you will need to provide a copy of your active duty spouse’s PCS orders. Just make sure the orders include provisions for accompanying dependents.
If they don’t, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Check your orders and get them amended if need be.
Research Lateral Positions Within Your Current Company
Some states will require military spouses to take lateral positions within a company if one is available in conjunction with or in lieu of unemployment benefits. And the only way to know is to learn the laws that apply to your state.
If you can, make an appointment or call your local labor office. They should be able to help you find the information you need and explain the application process.
And while you’re at it, visit with your employer’s HR department. Many companies have programs to help employees transfer upon relocation.
Find Job Hunting Resources Right Away
Don’t wait until you’re neck-deep in packing tape and inventory sheets to start scoping job resources.
Don’t wait until you’re already feeling the pinch of a lost second income.
Do yourself a favor and start your job search as soon as you find out where you’ll be moving. Use social media to network with military spouses already in the area and contact Fleet and Family Services or Army Community Services at your new duty location. They often have an employment counselor on staff who can help you find job resources while you are transitioning in.
Sites like Indeed.com can give you an idea about the companies and jobs available in surrounding areas. Identify companies you might be interesting in work for and start making connections with recruiters if you can. Just make sure you are clear about your start date availability.
Have you filed for unemployment related to a PCS? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.