Military spouses will soon have more opportunities to get a job with the federal government, including telework or remote work positions.
The Office of Personnel Management will drop the geographical and relocation requirements spouses needed to use the Military Spouse Non-Competitive Appointment Authority in the past. This means spouses will no longer need relocation (PCS) orders to a specific area to be eligible for non-competitive federal employment consideration. The change will go into effect Oct. 21 and expires on Aug. 13, 2023.
Non-competitive appointment allows a hiring manager to appoint a spouse who meets certain criteria to any position in the competitive service for which they are qualified. If the hiring manager chooses to use this authority, spouses do not compete with civilian applicants.
Active duty spouses, widows, and widowers of a service member killed on active duty or the spouse of a service member with a 100% service-related disability are eligible for the employment preference.
"It's never been a brighter moment for a military spouse who would like to seek a government job," said Meredith Lozar, military spouse and executive director of programs for Hiring our Heroes. "If we're the most qualified person, then we have a better chance to get that job. In the past, we would often get lost in the system."
The rule change comes at a time when military spouse employment advocates are tracking a surge of military wives and husbands who are not employed. Hiring Our Heroes, an initiative of the U.S. Chamber Foundation, recorded a mid-pandemic military spouse unemployment rate of 38% in a flash survey in March 2021.
Alongside pre-pandemic employment challenges like frequent moves and interrupted career paths, spouses are now also encountering difficulties re-entering the workforce. Many aren't able to secure childcare or need to assist children with remote learning.
Meanwhile, the federal government is now relying heavily on telework and remote work during the pandemic.
OPM Senior Human Resources Manager Michelle Glynn worked to write a rule that would give spouses access to these opportunities. Glynn is a former military spouse who was hired into the federal government while her partner was on active duty and continued to work for the federal government for 35 years.
"No hero should go unsung -- military spouses deserve our praise and our action right now," wrote OPM Associate Director of Employee Services Rob Shriver in a blog post about the new rules. "They prove every single day how talented and determined they are. They have lived experience that makes them true leaders who will strengthen any organization they join."
According to Shriver, the new OPM rule changes will revitalize the previous "underused authority" by removing the limitations that kept spouses from getting hired in the past, like relocation requirements, geographic restrictions and arbitrary quotas.
The OPM reports that in May 2020, there were 16,922 federally employed military spouses. That number is less than one percent of the estimated 2.1 million civilians currently working in the federal government.
Under the modification to the OPM rule, agencies must now also provide annual reports about military spouse hiring. The departments will have to report the number of positions made available under the military spouse hiring authority, the number of applications received, and the number of military spouses appointed to positions. Agencies must also share what they're doing to promote the hiring of military spouses.
"I do think there's an increased likelihood of (military spouse) hiring if they are being held accountable for those numbers," said Lozar. "We're hoping to see some positive change. The government is saying, 'We're making this available to you, we want to know that you've used it, and we're hoping to see some positive change and some numbers coming back from you.'"
Lozar believes a job with the federal government could be a "game-changer" for spouses who haven't been able to build up 401k retirement savings due to frequent transfers. She recommends they use every resource available to increase their odds of a federal job offer.
"I think oftentimes military spouses are discouraged by the federal government hiring process, and they feel that they will not really have an opportunity, a strong chance to secure a government job," said Lozar. "And I want to say that with a little bit of help from some of the career coaches at SECO, with a little bit of help from other resources that are out there, this can be done, and now is the time."
Arm yourself with information from the Office of Personnel Management.