Military spouse employment problems are "under active examination" by the Trump administration, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday during an event sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington.
"I'm happy this particular issue of military spouse unemployment and underemployment is part of my portfolio, and I share that issue with a number of people in the administration," said Conway, who spoke at a military spouse employment summit, part of the chamber's Hiring Our Heroes program.
Among the issues being looked at, Conway said, are problems with regulations regarding professional licensing. Spouses have long complained about the difficulties and expense in taking their careers across state lines.
Conway said military families shouldn't have to choose between paying a $500 fee for a professional license and buying groceries or other necessities for that month.
Jill Biden, the wife of former Vice President Joe Biden and an advocate for military families, said that with everything military spouses manage on the home front, they shouldn't be worried about paying bills and facing career hurdles.
Both Biden and Conway noted the effect spouse employment has on retention and readiness. Biden cited a Hiring Our Heroes survey released at the event that found 81 percent of military spouses and their service members have discussed the possibility of leaving service, with one of the top factors in deciding whether to stay being the availability of careers for both spouses.
The survey involved 1,273 spouses of active-duty or recently separated service members. The report notes a decline in the unemployment rate of spouses from 23 percent to 16 percent in 2017, according to the survey; the new figure is still four times the national unemployment rate.
Spouses who do find a job may take one that's below their qualification level, harming their career progression, the report states. And almost half of spouses in their current job make less money than they did in a previous job.
"This is the beginning of a conversation that's long overdue," said Eric Eversole, president of Hiring our Heroes. "It's time to take action and start to address the critical challenges of our military families."
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.