Can I Get Unemployment Compensation as a Military Spouse?

Can I Get Unemployment As a Military Spouse?

The first time I had to give notice at a job due to a PCS move, I was pretty secure in the knowledge that I’d be able to find a new position as a Registered Nurse at our next location, barring the time it would take to transfer my state nursing license. In more recent years, I’ve worked for a military-friendly company with many remote workers, have moved several times, and kept my job with no repercussions.

But not all military spouses find it so easy to transfer jobs when it comes time to PCS. Federal employees, employees of private companies, freelancers–we all run into issues with our own careers when it comes to relocations due to our spouse’s military service.

What is the purpose of unemployment compensation (UC)?

Unemployment compensation is a joint state-federal program providing temporary financial help due to the loss of a job through no fault of your own, such as downsizing or lay-offs, not because you quit your job. UC will not completely cover the lost wages, but offers a buffer until you can find new work, along with other financial benefits.

You typically cannot receive UC if you voluntarily quit. However, most states have a “good cause” exception to this rule, including a move to follow a spouse due to a job transfer, such as a PCS move. It’s important to note that each state operates its own unemployment benefit program and details vary from state to state. You may also need to prove that you’re actively looking for new work.

If I must leave my job because my spouse is transferred due to military service, can I get unemployment benefits?

Good news! You may be eligible. Forty-six states allow for military spouses to apply for unemployment benefits if the loss of their job is due to a spouse receiving military PCS orders. (Idaho, North Dakota, Louisiana, and Ohio do not have this provision.) Go to your particular state’s unemployment benefits finder for details and how to apply.

What about our final move after military separation or retirement?

Some states allow for unemployment compensation due to job loss because of any job transfer of a spouse. It’s worth checking in with your specific state and applying.

What if I’m not married, but am a significant other moving with a service member?

Some states allow benefits for “domestic partners” or those about to be married.

What if my claim is denied?

You should be able to file an appeal. Your denial notice will give you details about how to appeal and any deadlines.

Important points to note:

  • If your state provides it, unemployment compensation is not automatic. You will need to apply and go through the paperwork and process.
  • Some states exclude overseas assignments for eligibility for unemployment benefits.
  • Most states set a minimum time you must have worked in the state before you can apply for UC due to a military move.
  • Some states have a set time of when you can quit your job before moving in order to be eligible for UC. For instance, if you resign a month before moving in order to take vacation in conjunction with a move, you may be ineligible for unemployment benefits. Check the regulations in your state to be sure.
  • If you’re eligible for unemployment benefits, apply as soon as you can after your move.
  • Federal employees may receive unemployment while waiting for a new position or job transfer.  The state laws where you’re filing will determine amount, number of weeks you can be paid, and other details. Check in with U.S. Department of Labor’s Unemployment for Federal Employees page to be clear on what’s allowed.
  • States change their unemployment regulations every year. We can’t emphasize enough: don’t take anyone’s word for what compensation you’re due. Check your state’s laws! For instance, Ohio had a bill under consideration last year to change their unemployment laws for military spouses. (As of this writing, there’s been no change, but it’s important to keep checking.)

Note: This is not meant to be legal advice or an exhaustive resource, but provided for informational purposes. Check with your state’s laws for specifics on their unemployment benefits or legal counsel if you have other questions.


National Military Family Association

Career One Stop

U.S. Department of Labor

Military OneSource MySECO

Connect with us on Facebook!