Military Spouse Unemployment Due to PCS

For military spouses, frequent moves often means leaving behind fulfilling employment. As a military spouse you may qualify for unemployment benefits if you have to leave your job due to a PCS move.
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Military wife and husband look at unemployment benefits on laptop before PCS move.

Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves can be a stressful, bittersweet experience for a military spouse. While a new place brings a fresh start, frequent moves due to PCS often mean leaving behind fulfilling employment. It can be challenging to find a new job, and transitioning from a dual-income household to a single-income one only adds more financial stress. 

But you’re not alone. As a military spouse, you may qualify for unemployment benefits if you have to leave your job due to a PCS move. Read on to discover if you’re eligible, how to apply and how to keep your military spouse unemployment benefits.

Eligibility for Military Spouse Unemployment Due to PCS

Unemployment insurance, also known as unemployment benefits, is a joint program between states and the federal government, offering financial benefits to eligible workers. While every state manages its own unemployment insurance program, they all adhere to the standards set by federal law.

Unemployment benefits are reserved for workers who lose their jobs due to no fault of their own. When it comes time for a PCS or military move, military spouses often have no choice but to resign from their jobs. Most states understand that the PCS move means the job loss is through no fault of the military spouse employee. 

North Dakota is the only state that classifies a PCS-related job loss as “voluntary” and does not provide unemployment benefits.  

How to Apply for Military Spouse Unemployment Benefits 

As unemployment benefits programs are managed at the state level, you’ll want to check your state’s eligibility criteria by visiting your state’s Department of Labor (DOL) website. Most states allow you to file for unemployment online or over the phone. When filing for unemployment benefits, you’ll need your:

  • Start date of employment 
  • Date of resignation
  • Former employer’s address

The most important thing to remember is that the state where you will be filing unemployment benefits is the state where you worked, not necessarily your state of residency. If you had to leave a job in Georgia for a PCS move to North Carolina, you would apply for unemployment benefits in the state of Georgia.

Know that states may have different requirements regarding when you officially quit your job before your spouse’s report date. 

Some states allow you to resign 30 days before your spouse’s report date, while others may require you to continue working until 15 or even 10 days before that date. Understanding the laws and restrictions surrounding unemployment benefits is essential before applying for them. 

In addition to this window for quitting, your state may require a minimum amount of time worked at your job before eligibility for unemployment kicks in. For example, if your state requires you to work for 12 months to receive unemployment benefits and you began working six months ago, you won’t be eligible.

Applying for unemployment benefits as soon as possible will increase your chances of getting the benefit check when needed. After you file the necessary documents, the first benefit check may arrive in two to three weeks.

Military Spouse Unemployment Due to PCS Overseas

If you’re a military spouse who’s moving overseas due to a PCS order, the unemployment benefit guidelines are a bit less clear. Each state has their own rules regarding overseas unemployment benefits. While some states consider leaving a job due to a spouse completing a PCS order overseas a voluntary quit with good cause, some specifically exclude military spouses that fall into this category. 

If you demonstrate the ability to apply for jobs in America while overseas, it’s worthwhile to file a claim and go through an appeals process, if necessary. With some evidence showing you’ll still be able to pursue some form of employment in America, the appeals clerk might approve your request.

Keeping Military Spouse Unemployment Benefits

Once you start receiving your unemployment benefits, it’s important to maintain your eligibility so you will continue to get your monthly unemployment check. The state where you file for unemployment will have its own criteria to continue receiving your benefits. This could include tracking your attempts at finding a new job through:

  • Applications submitted
  • Companies called
  • Interviews completed

Each state also has its own documentation requirements, so keep track of your job searching and properly report your progress.

Completing these requirements will ensure your benefits remain unaffected and hopefully get you closer to your next job.

Is Unemployment Income Taxed? 

Unemployment benefits are considered federally taxable income, but income tax is not automatically withheld when receiving benefits. You must opt-in to having your taxes withheld,  in which case the payer will automatically withhold 10% of your unemployment benefits. This is achieved by submitting a W-4V (Voluntary Withholding Request) to the payer.

If you do not opt-in to automatic withholding, it’s highly recommended to save a percentage of your unemployment benefits that will go towards your tax bill at the beginning of the following year.

The Bottom Line

Losing a job due to PCS can be tough. Moving to a new place can be draining. An unemployment check probably won’t make the move easier, but it can help reduce financial stress at a time when you already have enough to think about. 

Unemployment benefits can give you and your family some financial stability while you search for a new path. And hopefully, you won’t need to claim unemployment for very long.

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