Association Supports Virginia Unemployment Compensation for Trailing Military Spouses

On December 17, 2013, the Commission on Unemployment Compensation for the Commonwealth of Virginia revisited an opportunity to provide unemployment compensation to spouses who have worked in Virginia, but voluntarily quit their job to follow a service member spouse with orders for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to another state. The National Military Family Association provided a written and oral statement in support of the legislation. Currently, 44 states and the District of Columbia allow military spouses who leave a job to follow a service member spouse on PCS orders to collect unemployment compensation.

Legislation was passed in 2009 (Senate Bill 1495) in Virginia that allowed for unemployment compensation to trailing spouses, but it required full funding by the federal government to be implemented. No funding has ever been provided and the Commission discussed the confusion it was creating at a meeting in August 2013. Senator Mamie Locke recognized the need for implementing the intent of the bill without the federal funding clause and pre-filed Senate Bill 18 (S.B. 18) for the 2014 session. S.B. 18 maintains the requirement that eligibility will require reciprocity (i.e. the state being moved to provide unemployment compensation for trailing military spouses). However, if Virginia passes the bill, Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, and Vermont will be the only states that do not allow trailing military spouses to claim unemployment compensation. Ohio has drafted a budget that includes the benefit, but it has not yet been implemented.

The Commissioners heard from leaders inside and outside of government at both state and national levels at the December hearing, including our Association. The concern, voiced by some commissioners, was that the number of spouses claiming unemployment would be too costly, especially if they continued to receive unemployment after gaining new employment in another state. Initially, the Commission chose to do nothing with the proposal because the numbers were speculative. However, at the end of the meeting, despite their concerns, they voted to recommend the changes to the legislation proposed by Senator Mamie Locke. This does not mean it is law, yet. However, the bill can proceed to the Virginia General Assembly with the recommendation of the state Commission on Unemployment Compensation.

The National Military Family Association works to support legislation across the country that serves as a stopgap to loss of employment as a result of obligations filled by the service member spouse. Whenever possible, we hope that military families can stay together rather than face financial difficulties that force them to separate in favor of two incomes.

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