Several hundred service members, veterans and military spouses attend the Hiring Our Heroes job fair Jan. 21 at the Timmermann Conference Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

Several hundred service members, veterans and military spouses attend the Hiring Our Heroes job fair Jan. 21 at the Timmermann Conference Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (Shawn Morris/U.S. Army)

As the wife of a retired Air Force officer and the founder of the National Military Spouse Network, which supports the professional and personal growth of the nation’s military spouses, I know firsthand the challenges that military spouses face in maintaining stable careers. For too long, military spouses have had to put their career aspirations on hold or sacrifice them altogether to support their service member and their family. However, with the reintroduction of the Military Spouse Hiring Act, we finally have an opportunity to make real progress toward improving the employment prospects of military spouses who face an unemployment rate that has stubbornly remained around 20% or higher for the past decade.

In addition to sharing some of the same challenges as their civilian counterparts — such as access to affordable child care — the military lifestyle presents several other distinct obstacles when it comes to finding and retaining employment. Military spouses are generally subjected to directed moves every three years, usually to locations where they will not already have an existing support system or network. Sometimes those moves take them overseas and regulations such as status of forces agreements may preclude them from being able to work.

This crucial piece of bicameral and bipartisan legislation would provide tax incentives to employers who hire military spouses, helping to mitigate the challenges that military spouses face in finding and maintaining employment. This legislation has been introduced multiple times in the past but has yet to become law. Now, more than ever, it is the time for Congress to act.

According to a report by Mission: Readiness, an organization of 800 retired admirals, generals and other top military leaders, approximately 75% of America’s youth are ineligible for military service due to obesity, lack of adequate education, a criminal record, or other issues. Additionally, a 2021 Military Family Support Programming Survey by the Military Family Advisory Network found that service members and veterans were less likely to recommend joining the armed forces than in years prior (63% in 2020 versus 75% in 2019).

This is negatively impacting our nation’s recruiting efforts. Both the Navy and the Army fell short of their respective goals in 2022, with the Army missing its mark by 25%. All signs point to a looming recruiting crisis, potentially jeopardizing the country’s national security.

The decision to stay in the military or get out is often made around the kitchen table, with service members sometimes choosing to leave to afford their spouses and families more career and financial opportunities. As the military grapples with recruiting and retention challenges, supporting military spouses in their careers can play a critical role in ensuring that service members are able to focus on their mission without worrying about the financial stability of their families.

Our service members should never have to choose between doing what’s best for their families and serving their country. The time to pass the Military Spouse Hiring Act is now. Our all-volunteer force depends on it.

Sue Hoppin is founder and president of Lorton, Va.-based National Military Spouse Network.

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