Recently released survey results by Blue Star Families in collaboration with the Institute for Veterans and Military families show the top five issues for military spouses as the following: Time away from family, military spouse employment, military children’s education, impact of deployments on children and military pay and benefits.
Now many of you might say of course these are issues that rise to the top for our military families.
The study goes on to address the impact of service on the family’s quality of life.
As military families, we want to serve but face the impact of service firsthand on our families.
The top lifestyle stressors are financial issues, deployments and relocation stress.
I am sure the past year’s moving struggles during permanent changes of station added to the regular relocation stress that comes with a move. Families across the country and world are still battling with moving companies and transportation offices as the Department of Defense works to forge a new path forward for military families. This is most important as we enter a new moving cycle this summer.
Interesting to note, the 10,192 respondents — who included military spouses, service members and veterans — shared the best ways the Department of Defense could improve the quality of life for our military families; better housing options, adequate manning levels and more career control for our service members.
The 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey also provided some statistics on spouse employment: 40 percent of military spouses are employed, 30 percent are unemployed, 24 percent are not in the labor force and the most important to note — 56 percent of employed spouses are underemployed. This is a problem many different sections of the population faces from the senior workforce to our veterans, but also are military spouses.
Last week, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper spoke to a crowd of soldiers and their families in Arlington, Virginia at the AUSA Family Readiness Initiatives Forum.
You may have read some articles about the speech, seen some clips or even watched the live stream.
Esper spoke about providing stability for our Army families and improving the access to jobs for working spouses. He also spoke about ways to have soldiers and their families remain at duty stations for longer periods of time. He talked about helping Army spouses find civilian jobs and reimbursements for professional licenses as families experience permanent changes of station.
This is all great news. This is also an effort to retain our soldiers. These great initiatives to support our military families are needed, but implementation will be the real test.
I believe the hiring process for our military spouses needs an overhaul both in the public and private sectors. It is going to take some hard work, some tough decisions and true commitment to our military families to ensure the employment struggles for our military spouses are tackled.
The drive by the secretary of the Army to support and take action to help our military families is encouraging. There also should be some accountability on the job seeker to find creative ways to show how important a military spouse is to an organization.
Working together and as a team is the only way we are going to be able to revamp and push the needle to a higher employment rate and a lower unemployment and underemployment rate for our military spouses.
As you move around serving alongside your service member, I encourage you to stay plugged, get involved and do what you can to keep your career on track.
Reena O’Brien is a military spouse and Herald correspondent. She lives on Fort Hood.