Is MilSpouse Government Hiring Preference Coming Soon?


White House officials said today they will soon announce a plan to give military spouses an easier shot at government jobs.

Navy Capt. Brad Cooper, director of the White House’s Joining Forces program, told us that they are working closely with agencies, particularly the DoD, to make it easier for spouses to get government jobs and that we can expect an announcement in the next few weeks.

The current government policy regarding military spouse hiring is more than a little confusing. I touched base with the good people of the National Military Family Association in an attempt to figure out it.

They said right now there are two hiring initiatives within the federal government.

The first is DoD specific. It gives military spouses who recently completed a PCS preference when applying for a DoD job at their new base.  That means they may be given head-of-line consideration for certain positions.

The second rule lets agencies hire recently PCSed spouses, military widows and spouses of 100 percent disabled vets for noncompetitive appointment. This does not mean they have perfence for those jobs – it simply means they have a foot in the job door under some circumstances.

In short: hiring preference for all military spouses within the federal government does not exist.

One of the great things about this blog is that it gives you the chance for your voice to be heard by the White House and the people who plan these programs. I tell you about initiatives they are planning, you leave a comment telling me what you think and I pass it right back to them. We found out about this upcoming announcement, for example, specifically because a reader commented here that easier access to government services jobs would be helpful, and I brought the subject to Cooper. Pretty neat, huh?

But here’s something even cooler: he had read that post and seen the comments himself even before I asked the question. People who matter are reading your comments!

Now, then, is your chance to talk about what you are looking for in a change to spouse employment with the government. What is your ideal spouse hiring policy? Leave your thoughts below and make sure the White House hears your voice.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

37 Comments on "Is MilSpouse Government Hiring Preference Coming Soon?"

  1. Recently PCS's Colonels wife for example. So she wants some shopping money since his $150,000 a year is not a enough, so she will get preference over a wartime Sergeant, recently discharged. He has four kids and his wife has no job, and they have no health insurance. And he is better qualified, but she gets preference? Or what about any unemployed American trying to survive? Should a family get preference for two federal paychecks over a family with no income? Not in my Christian mind.

    • Tim,
      We are not all wives of colonels. Base pay for my husband after taxes is 24,000 dollars. Having to move your entire life every few years is difficult enough. I agree with giving preference to soldiers as well, but we are serving to. We are told where we will live when we can have our spouse with us and when we have to live a year alone. Having preference for a job eases financial burdens and it helps us get out and established in our new location.

    • What about a recently PCS'ed Colonel's wife whose family had lost over $100,000 in the real estate bust because there was no base housing available and needs to work? I'd be cautious about making judgements about any service member or their family members needs. You do not know what other people's situations are. Any military spouse who needs to work should be given the opportunity no matter what their husband's rank is.

    • I'm a spouse and a veteran. Gasp!

  2. How do you complete a PCS preference? I am unable to live with my husband because there were hardly any jobs (civilian or government) in his stationed area. We cannot afford for me to quit working, and the government jobs were so hard to even apply for, mainly because they were only opened to hiring people already in the DoD or GS system. It is hard to have any experience at one lower pay grade, when they make it so hard to step foot in the door.

    I would like to see improvements in counseling and guiding through this very complicated process, so the spouses' career does not have to come to a dead end because we chose to marry and support the military members.

    Please help us make a better military community by helping spouses to be independent financially and with plenty of career opportunities. It will have a positive outcome for all military spouses and the entire community by bringing more educated, motivated and competent candidates by helping the spouses by making the preference system applicable to all spouses and simplify the system.

    Thank you.

    • Karen, check with your branch's Community Service Center. The Army has ACS which offers monthly classes and even one on one counseling on seeking a job. Your local civilian personal office should also be able to provide you guidance.

  3. When DoD PCS'd me to my current CONUS duty assignment I arrived on station to find that I was at a severe disadvantage to my active duty co-workers. I could not get into base housing since there was a military preference to get into housing. I could not get my children into the base Child Care Center since there was a military preference to get Child Care. My wife could not get hired into a government job since wife's of Civil Service DoD employees do not get the same hiring preference as do military spouses.____Civil Servants are placed at a severe disadvantage. DoD requires them to be mobile and accept reassignment as a condition of employment or promotion. However, if they move they will find that they are discriminated against in many ways (spousal employment preference, housing, child care, family support services, etc) relative to their military coworkers who also PCS.__ __Continued in next comment due to space limitations

  4. DoD expects it's Civil Servants to look and act like active duty soldiers performing the same job. It expects Civil Servants to deploy and to serve in the same trenches. However, it does not treat them the same nor does it provide comparable benefits.

    As mentioned above, I'm not against providing a spousal preference. However, the preference should be limited to persons who have recently PCS'd and should not be restricted to active duty only. It should treat DoD civil servants equally with similarly situated active duty. For example, if spouses of 100% disabled former military get a preference then spouses of 100% disabled Civil Servants should get the same preference. If spouses of deceased military get a preference then spouses of deceased civil servants should get the same preference. If military personnel who have PCS'd within the past year get a preference then Civil Servants who have PCS'd within the past year should get the same preference.
    __Continued in next comment due to space limitations

  5. The same applies to other on base support activities such as Child Care, Base Housing, Family Services/counseling support to deployed spouses, etc.

    When I was deployed to Iraq my wife and children were left on their own with no help from DoD. It was very tough on them and, as a result, I'd probably quit before I would deploy again. It's not that I don't want to serve, however, if my family isn't going to be treated equally with active duty families who do the same thing why should I?
    Continued in next comment due to space limitations

  6. DoD needs to get its' act together regarding treatment of DoD civil servants. Once upon a time Civil Servants worked in offices on base doing support roles. They never deployed or PCS'd or did activities similar to active duty military. However,this is no longer the case. Hundreds of thousands of DoD civil servants perform jobs that are indistinguishable from active duty. By the same token, hundreds of thousands of DoD active duty perform jobs that are indistinguishable from Civil Servants. Civil Servants go TDY, PCS, they deploy, they fight, they serve, they die.

    DoD needs to recognize that this isn't your grandfathers military anymore.

  7. Webmaster:
    Sorry for the long post. You should mention somewhere that there is a limitation on post length and your comment post block shouldn't let posters write more than allowed. As was, I composed a long post and then your site told me to break it up into blocks and post multiple times. Unfortunately, it didn't tell me how many characters is allowed in a block so I had to experiment to find out.

  8. Raluca Krzywicki | April 12, 2012 at 1:01 am |

    I am a student at one of the colleges in San Diego, CA and i enrolled in the dental assistant program here. Not only I am experiencing hard ship with the instructors ever since they have heard I am a military spouse, but I have even experience discrimination when it comes to receive credit for my knowledge during classes. During my clinical hours on the Naval Base I also noticed a lot of civilians working there. They are occupying the military spouse graduates' spots. And no one does anything about it. Just like I mentioned I enrolled in the dental program in town to further obtain a job at one of the dental offices one any base, but there is no room due to a high volume of civilian contractors. we need to do something about it because there are 6 military spouses not including myself that I know in only one class, per this year. My husband is deployed and I am here lonely experiencing discrimination in town at school, and no room to obtain a position on base where we consider our home. What's my husband fighting for? Thank you

    • I understand where you're coming from. I'd experience the same. I tried to apply into the base and even continue for a higher education; but on base were hired with civilian and military spouse were left out. I was told of many other opportunity, but why would I go to school and study so hard to work a Lowes or the APX??

  9. We would love to do an interview about this on the Military Mamas Radio Show. We have helped many spouses navigate this issue. It would be great to have more information to give them.

  10. As an IT professional I have applied for dozens of IT jobs at all the bases we have been stationed at. The first question I always get is if I have my TS clearance. Since I don't, I rarely ever even get interviews.

    If the military does a TS background screening for my husband would it really be that hard to do one for me at the same time? That would really help!!!!

  11. My husband served 26 years in the USArmy – retiring as a 90% disabled vet three years ago and is going for reevaluation to get 100% because he can't do anything anymore because of the pain levels of his injuries. I was never able to obtain a career or college degree being an Army wife and now I have 30 years of work skills especially in coordination and Exec. Aide but have been unable to get into the Federal job market. We still have a son in middle school and two in college. I think that there should be some preference given to those of us who have served and sacrificed a career of our own to support our husbands and children.

    Lee Ann Newton

    • I'm in a similar boat. My DoD job was eliminated unexpectedly one month after my husband retired. I applied for the same job in different opening but was shut out because I didn't have any preferences or wasn't a current employee.

  12. Rebecca West | April 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm |

    I am not sure where to begin. Lets start with it would be great for there to be training on navigating the federal job market nightmare and some assistance with obtaining a job. I have tried every trick in the book, and after 2 years still no luck with obtaining a GS job.

    I have been told I am "lucky" if you will in that I am a veteran and a military spouse. I have been told that I have a "great leg up" on everyone else that is applying because I get the Vet points and the spouse points. What a JOKE!!!!!!!! I have stopped counting on how many GS jobs I have applied for since I got out 2 years ago. It doesn't help that some demented person back at HRC has decided that we need to go from one horrible duty station to another (Ft Polk, LA to Ft McCoy, WI) which means no job market other than trying to work your way into the GS system when someone finally leaves. I could understand the not being able to find a job if I didn't have any experience but I have years of administration, law enforcement and management experience with a Bachelor's degree and next October a Masters.

    If I am lucky after sending in my resume and cover letter to secure an Interview, I then get told, that I am OVER QUALIFIED for the position but some how I am UNDER QUALIFIED for a GS-4 job that wants a PhD to clean toilets for the Post Commander’s office (yes, that was sarcasm). I then hear about spouses that just “fall into” GS jobs and I want to scream. So would an actual program that helps spouses with getting into the GS system would be great.

    • +10 for this! That's exactly how I feel. If someone else whines about how "easy" spouses can get GS jobs … (breathe) … our last PCS, I applied for EVERYTHING out there – and still waited nearly a year to get picked up as a NAF (GS-3 equivalent) employee. Worked my way up to a GS-7/9 …we moved and I waited 3 months before getting a GS-5 job. Worked my way back up to a GS-7 …and we're due to PCS again this fall.

      It's hard to budget when you don't know what the budget will be. Hard to have a career when GS jobs don't transfer and degrees seem to be useless. I just want to contribute to my unit and my household like I used to when I was active duty.

      Rebecca – I'm so glad you wrote! With so many folks ranting about how "easy" we have it as spouses – I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me. :(

  13. Kim,

    I agree there needs to be some changes within the GS hiring system. The old saying is "if it's not broke, don't fix it." well the GS system is broken and it needs to be fixed. There are quite a few military spouses out there that are highly educated and trained that would be happy to work in these positions but they make the system so hard and confusing that they give up trying. Give the spouses a chance to show you what they know and can do.

    • Hello Rebecca, you are absolutly correct. I just experienced the very thing you mentioned! I am married to an Active Duty Marine working on a Military Base. I work for a private company but we share our building with Government Staff. Our jobs are the same in most aspects. They recently posted some GS positions and I applied for them all. I have two degrees, one being a Graduate degree and at least 7 years experience in the very jobs they posted.
      I applied on the USAjobs web site only to get a status letter saying I did not meet the miminum qualifications! I was floored..

      I just wish that there were more opportunities for Military spouses besides working at the local PX and doing at home daycare…

  14. I agree with the fact that the system is broken. I have been able to get contracting job at the last 2 palces my husband has been stationed and continually am trying to get into the smae positions but as GS. In my case I have filled out all the paperwork for Military Spose preference and now PPP part and I still can’t get there. Also in my case I can get through the lovely automated system of determining if you qualify but my preferences never show up and move up in priority. No one can seem to figure out why. I am very frustrated due to the fact that when my husbanad gets out I have a crazy resume and people don’t understand all the moving around. In the “outside” world they just see it as an unstable candidiate!

    • and I apparently cannot spell! LOL

    • I agree with you Brittany… there should be some type of incentive in place for us wives that work outside the home but can only work 3 or 4 years on the job due to us PCSing with our spouses. It's as though we are being penalized for that…

  15. I don't know if I should feel happy because of the all the other spouses going through similar situations (I am not alone) or sad because the situation is not good.

    My experience has been frustrating as well. I only have one thing to add:

    I think some personnel within the CHRO are biased against military spouses. Why? I overheard a CHRO supervisor say as much. What was frustrating is that I reported this and there was nothing legally that could be done.

    I wish I could offer hope. But, there is has been little hope in my experience working with CHRO.

  16. I am a active duty military spouse living at Fort Bragg, NC. We PCS'd here in June 2011 and I still have yet to find employment on-post. Upon arrival, I immediately enrolled in PPP. I held a very high contract position at our last post, hold a BS degree from an amazing University and am over half-way done with my MSW. I have referrals from two-star generals, Colonels, you name it yet I have been many times 'referred' to the selecting official and never called. I have networked, volunteered, attended job fairs, etc. I pass in about three resumes a week on USAjobs or CPOL… Soon I will be a highly educated bartender so we can make the bills. The sad part is I am not alone as I can see from all of our posts on here- at least the other spouses :).

    Something absolutely needs to change. One aspect that upsets me is there are many job postings allowing for every option for preference under the sun, except spousal preference. As active duty spouses we put everything on hold for our spouses' mission- school, family, vacations, my husband and I even have had to wait to have children based on pending deployments and lack of funds since I am not bringing in a check right now. I refuse to put my own education and career on hold, or to give up, but there are so many trying days when you are denied constantly.

    What I would like to see changed:
    – All jobs with veterans preference should have spousal preference- end of story.
    – PPP should last for 2.5-3 years not only 2 years- I am an officers wife, but what about NCO spouses that stay longer before their next PCS?
    – I want it clearly stated what my PPP enrollment entails, what job series I can apply to, and what the level of preference really is.
    – I want to hear what each presidential candidate plans to do for spouse employment during the upcoming debates. I don't want lip-service, I want concrete action plans.
    – I would like to be able to get an appointment to even enroll in PPP- here at Fort Bragg I had to call over twenty times and wait a month for an appointment.
    – I would like to see the folks at CPAC offer a one-on-one session to spouses who have been looking for work for more than twelve months. So many of us sit back and wonder if we are doing something wrong with our resumes, our applications, the answers to questions, etc. that sitting down with a real person to see what we can improve upon would be useful.

    Others need to remember not to not underestimate military spouses, we know more than some think we do ;).

  17. Any Spouse who wants their voice heard about Military Spouse Preference not working, especially if you had a job offer and it was rescinded after they discovered you were no longer eligible, I wish you could contact me. Today I interviewed with our local news and I have another interview with the paper on Wednesday. Also submitted Congressional Inquiry. We wear the Invisible Uniform and our voice should be heard.

  18. Hello Frusterated, I feel your frustration but in order to qualify or claim "spouse preference" you must be stated on your husbands PCS orders as well has be a your current PCS station for a certain amount of time. If you have PCSed and it is over 2 years then you can't claim spouses preference. If you call the Government HR department they can tell you what qualifies you to claim spouses preference.

    To me, its all a joke. I am so frusterated with this process but all we can do is continue to voice our frustrations and maybe something will change. Good luck and be blessed!

  19. I too am located in Fort Bragg. We PCSd here from hawaii about 6 months ago. In Hawaii they enforce PPP. The CPAC here does nothing but sit around and socialize. The CPAC in hawaii has a staff of about 12 people but they cover Tripler Army Medical Center, Schofield Barracks, Fort Shafter, and some areas of Hickam AFB and Pearl Harbor. The CPAC here in Bragg is enormous! But not a damn thing gets done, they straight up dont answer my calls any more. I fall in to the spouse preference and am a veteran aswell. I held a government position in hawaii at Tripler Army Med Center and am still on LWOP Status. Yet all of the positions here have gone to "in-department hiring"! So they give the job to someone that already has a job. Plain and simple, there is just way too much corruption in the hiring system here. The CPAC doesnt enforce PPP lists here AT ALL!

  20. I am the widow of 100% disabled Vet.; my husband died in 2002. After my husband's death I went to college and became a NYS certified English teacher, aquired and was appointed as aNYC teacher. Recently, under attack by the mayor, my school had to excess more than 12 teachers – similiar to a layoff, but with pay, though we no longer teach and travel to different schools every week filing in as "subs." I found out in June I was to be one of the teachers excessed and then applied for and was denied "NYCDOE Excessing/Seniority Credit" This would have entitled me to a five year seniority cushion and I would not have been excessed. My issue is the justification used to deny my application: "at the time of filing, the veteran was no longer disabled." Unbelievably, the City of NY and the Department of Education do not consider my husband's death to be at all disabling. I was told by the top person at City Hall who handles Vet's issues that I am ineligible at the city level, though not at the federal level. I am outraged and confused & can't find any advocate to help my cause.

  21. Rebecca West | April 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm |


    I wanted to double check before I responded to your post and I was right. That "unaccounted" for housing allowance, BAS and health care, those are not unaccounted for. We pay taxes on the housing allowance and the BAS every year at tax time. There is a deduction on my husband's LES every month for health care. So it is not free.

    No one is trying to CON anyone, all we, as spouses, are asking for is for people to realize that we are individuals and would like to have careers because we know our spouses careers will end one day.

  22. Krystal Walls | April 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm |

    Any soldier that is discharged or shall we say honrobly discharged would have there VA preference when applying for a DOD job. Barry, how do you know that soldier did not have the option to stay in the military and be all they could be but decided not to. I know my nusband and our family sacrifice time that we will never get back and last I checked freedom is not FREE. nor valued enough! Especially for those that have the choce not to serve or get discharged from the military. As a wife we go where our soldier goes and support them which limits our professional development as a human being. Strong families keep our soldiers going to fight the good fight.

  23. Rebecca West | April 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm |


    I feel your pain, I am in the same boat. I would like to see some action put behind the words of helping military spouses find careers for themselves. Right now it just seems to be talk.

  24. Kim, I've been on the job search for health administration, within both civilian and government, no luck due to my lack of experience and many moves? I have the qualification. I got nothing and it's been 2 months since my job search.

  25. Kim – you're right. I've been a brat, active duty, and now active duty spouse and IMHO – spouses are the BEST customer service/admins. Why? We know first hand how the paperwork impacts the member. We will bend ourselves in knots making sure finance situations are resolved, bileting is booked, EFMP, ERD, and other family focused packages are expedited. It's not just a job, it's extended family because when you're away from home – the military IS your family.

    Locals and non-active duty Civilians don't have that same connection and sadly that often translates into ambivalence when it comes to taking care of the troops/airmen/sailors.

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