From the Homefront: Military spouses leaving jobs should prepare early for unemployment benefits

Twice a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “From the Homefront,” a column for Coast Guard spouses by Coast Guard spouse Shelley Kimball. Shelley has been married to Capt. Joe Kimball, chief of the office of aviation forces at Coast Guard headquarters, for 16 years. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Military Family Advisory Network.

Written by Shelley Kimball

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.

Portrait of Shelley Kimball.

As spring ends, so do many jobs for military spouses. This is the season for moving, and those who are changing stations will likely also have to change jobs.

Unemployment benefits are available to help fill the financial gap during a military move.

So far 46 states allow military spouses to claim unemployment benefits (sometimes also called re-employment assistance) when they lose their jobs as a result of a permanent change of station (PCS). The intent of these benefits is to assist people who have lost their jobs and who are trying to find work.

Military spouses are 10 times more likely to move than their civilian counterparts. Military spouse unemployment is three times higher than it is for civilian spouses, and spouses who do work are likely earning about 38 percent less.

Shannon Beattie has relied on unemployment benefits twice as a result of moves. The first time, she was leaving Jacksonville, Florida, where she had been in a banking job for five years. Then, after working for a company in Pensacola, Florida, for two years, they moved to Detroit. She collected unemployment benefits then, too, while she looked for another job.

The Beattie family, from left, Jack, 4, Shannon Beattie, Chief Petty Officer Chris Beattie, and Chandler 7. Photo courtesy of the Beattie family.

The Beattie family, from left, Jack, 4, Shannon Beattie, Chief Petty Officer Chris Beattie, and Chandler 7. Photo courtesy of the Beattie family.

“It is good to know that I am recognized for my hard work in establishing steady income for my family and that the state is honoring us due to my spouse’s military transfer,” Beattie said. “Receiving this benefit alleviated a little bit of stress while I searched for employment after we relocated.”

The process to apply for unemployment benefits was relatively easy, Beattie said. She started by doing an online search for unemployment benefits, and she found the site for her state. (Use the state you are leaving for benefits.) In her case, it was the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Almost every state should have a website to help spouses fill out the required paperwork. The rules regarding the benefits will also vary, depending on the state. Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota and Ohio still don’t recognize a PCS as an allowable reason for collecting unemployment assistance.

States may have a maximum time someone can receive benefits, and it will have requirements for looking for work while receiving benefits. Some states may also require a waiting period before benefits engage, meaning the person filing for benefits will have to go without pay during that time.

While the benefits won’t replace the lost wages as a result of a move, they will provide some breathing room while looking for another job.

“The process worked well for me,” Beattie said. “It provided a little bit of financial security while I searched for employment. It certainly isn’t income replacement because the benefit is not 100 percent what you were making at your job.”

The Jenkins family: from left, Amanda, Alexa, and Seaman Apprentice Preston Jenkins. Amanda was able to use unemployment benefits to fill the gap between jobs during a move. Photo courtesy of Amanda Jenkins.

The Jenkins family: from left, Amanda, Alexa, and Seaman Apprentice Preston Jenkins. Amanda was able to use unemployment benefits to fill the gap between jobs during a move. Photo courtesy of Amanda Jenkins.

Prepare ahead, before you quit your job, if possible. Your state may require that you work a minimum length of time at a job before you can claim benefits. Some states also require that you quit your job within a time frame of the move (for example, a few weeks before the orders require the move).

Amanda Jenkins, a Coast Guard spouse who works in digital media and broadcast sales, said the process was very easy for her, too.

Her family was preparing to move from Texas to Virginia, and she was worried about what would happen to their finances while she was looking for work. She applied for benefits over the phone, followed up online, and she received her first payment three weeks later. She didn’t need the assistance for long, though, because she found a new job about a month later.

The peace of mind that came with the financial help was most valuable, she said.

“Because it’s already a huge stress moving, let alone leaving a job you excelled at, the last thing you should have to do is worry about how you will financially make until you find a job,” she said. “This lessens the burden and takes some of the pressure off.”

Did you apply for unemployment benefits due to a PCS? What advice would you offer others who are considering applying?

Resources

Getting started: Find your state here to learn about the benefits available. There are other rules for federal employees. Read about them here.

Coast Guard spouse employment resources: Work-Life offers some assistance for spouses who are having trouble finding employment.

Coast Guard Support Career Center: This site offers tools and information for finding work.

More stories like this: Previous stories have covered realistic advice for finding work, and employment and transition resources.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Commandant or of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Comments

comments

Tags: , , , , ,