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Report: Improving Spouse Employment Programs

A new government report says what we’ve suspected all along — that the DoD is duplicating efforts among spouse employment programs and, by and large, cannot prove that their military spouse employment help is working.

The report talks about how two programs — the employment help offered on installations and the career center via Military OneSource – often duplicate their efforts and confuse both users and program managers. It also details how three programs — MyCAA, MSEP and the Military OneSource career center — cannot show to the Government Accountability Office’s satisfaction exactly how impactful their services are and how many spouses land jobs as a result.

You can check out my Military.com story for all the details on exactly what this means to the programs and what the DoD’s response is.

In my story I talk about the improvements the GAO recommends for both making sure the programs are doing what they should do (get spouses jobs) and what the GAO needs to do to make sure Military OneSource (which, according to the report, has literally no way to tell whether or not their program helps anyone get any kind of job ever) and installation career counseling offices aren’t doing the exact same thing.

But let’s laser-beam focus on one facet of this: that we are still (and forever will be, I’m afraid), debating between  programs that cost money but do the exact same things.

Who among us hasn’t been confused about which very-similar-sounding program they should contact for a problem, only to get there and be referred out to the other program … only to go there and be sent back where we started?

The report details the benefits of the in-person services (holds job fairs, workshops, hands-on resume help, etc.) and those of the online/call center (available outside business hours, helps those who dont live near installations, the counselors specialize in career help, etc.) It also talks about the problems of the programs — that information provided by in-person counselors varies widely base-to-base and that the online program is difficult to even find at all (in fact, it took me some serious digging to find the page for this story. Googling “military spouse career center” didn’t bring up Military OneSource at all. It brought up Military.com!).

In case you are confused and thinking “I didn’t even know my base HAD a career help center,” here is a little graphic courtesy of GAO to explain what each service calls there’s so you can go look for it.

The report recommends that the programs work together to make sure they aren’t doing the same thing, but I ask you: wouldn’t it just be easier to eliminate the in-person counselors all together? Downsize that staff, have general counselors point consistently to Military OneSource. Why not do what the Tricare office does? When I walk in there with a question about coverage, they point me to a wall of phones where I simply call the 800 number. That seems simple enough, right?

What do you think? Is the solution to the information duplication and confusion to simply eliminate one of the services?

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the managing editor of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is an Associate Editor. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on NPR and in the New York Times. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

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