The DOD spouse employment suggestion page reads like one of a hundred other job-seeker guides. It advises spouses to “consider volunteering,” “go to a job fair,” “check the local community websites for job listings” and “find out if there are training or educational opportunities available.”
“It’s great to be enthusiastic, but you have to be realistic,” one government-sponsored website advises.
More than 46 percent of military spouses are either “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with DOD-sponsored employee assistance programs, while only 12 percent said the programs helped them find a job, according to the MOAA study.
The Defense Department, however, says spouses using DOD’s Spouse Employment and Career Opportunity Center “report an overall satisfaction rate of 95 percent.”
If the Defense Department is letting military spouses fall through the cracks, the private sector must pick up the slack, some spouses say. Business people and lawmakers alike are passionate about hiring veterans. Patriotism sells. But hiring military spouses isn’t as sexy.
“People understand what veterans have given but I don’t think people go beyond that,” Aikman said. “They think the spouse doesn’t deserve the same amount of respect.”
Even companies that profess a commitment to hiring military spouses have policies that effectively disqualify candidates with frequent job changes or employment gaps. Aikman said. In order to be military-spouse friendly, companies must change the way they train human resource specialists.
“The talking is there, I’m just not seeing the action yet,” she said.
Aikman’s career trajectory has been tough. And for her husband, that’s just another headache in a slew of military stressors adding to the burden of protecting the homeland.
Once again, it seems, it has fallen to Maj. Aikman to confront a problem no one else seems to want to consider.
“When I fall apart, he’s had to pick up the pieces and tell me to keep going,” Aikman said of her husband. But as in his military service, she added, “He always steps up to the plate."