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Unemployment: Do military spouses qualify for benefits?

Being jobless is tough on all members of a military family. Filing for unemployment can be a big help in getting your feet back on solid financial ground.

Laid Off

Most Americans who receive unemployment compensation have been laid off, either permanently or temporarily. Normally being laid off means that you lost your job through no fault of your own, or, in other words, that you had no intention of leaving work. In most cases it was a management decision having to do with money and not a reflection of poor work ethic or being a bad employee.


Most people will jump to the conclusion that if they are fired from a job unemployment compensation isn’t an option. This isn’t always the case, though. One size doesn’t always fit everyone – that’s why most state unemployment offices will let you explain your situation. Putting together a cohesive argument that proves your firing was not a result of intentionally underperforming or act outing out is your best bet. Showing good work ethic, by getting a letter from a boss or co-worker, could help your case as well.


Quitting a job could result in not being able to qualify for unemployment compensation. In order to qualify your state unemployment office will have a hearing to see if your quitting was the result of unsafe working conditions, abuse, harassment or other reasons that made the job a bad place to work. Being clear and concise with your argument will be go far in this hearing.


More than 21 states now allow military spouses to receive unemployment when they quit due to relocation of their spouse and another 21 states allow this "exception" to be made on a case-by-case basis, usually at a hearing.

If you submit for unemployment while moving for a PCS make sure you submit a copy of your spouses orders with you unemployment paperwork even if you are not asked to do so initially. List your spouse's military relocation as the reason why you quit your job on all forms. When you quit your job be sure to notify your employer in writing that you are quitting due to your spouse's military relocation and keep a copy of this letter.

Most states allow you to resign or quit 30 days before the report date listed on your spouse's orders, so be careful about quitting too early if you plan to file for unemployment.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has the state by state break down of military spouse unemployment compensation and requirements.

Filing Unemployment

Contact your state unemployment insurance office to see what kind of unemployment wages you qualify for.

After filing for unemployment and being granted wages your state will require you to register with a local workforce center to make sure you’re actively looking for a job. Staying active in the job hunt and showing evidence of this will be key to keeping for unemployment wages.

In many cases the office that you are required to register with will also offer services to help you get the job you want. These services range from help with your resume to help with your interviewing skills and even career counseling.