Unemployment Benefits for Military Spouses 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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Unemployment Benefits for Military Spouses Due to PCS
Table of Contents
  1. Unemployment Benefits: Who Qualifies
  2. Unemployment Benefits: How to Apply
    1. When to Apply for Unemployment Benefits
  3. 3 Tips on the Ins and Outs of Unemployment Benefits for Military Spouses
    1. Tip #1: Remember That Unemployment Benefits Are Taxable
    2. Tip #2: Know When To Quit
    3. Tip #3: Learn the Requirements to Keep Your Benefits
  4. States That Provide Unemployment Benefits to Military Spouses Who Resign for a PCS Move
  5. CONUS to OCONUS: Military Spouse Unemployment Due to PCS Overseas
  6. The Best Tool For Financial Stability In a Time of Transition

You were excelling at your job, working hard doing something you love. But your spouse told you they received new orders, and now it’s time for another Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move.

Your job gave you fulfillment, social connection, and, perhaps most importantly, a paycheck. 

PCS moves are often a stressful, bittersweet experience for a military spouse, and changing from a dual-income household to a single-income one can bring financial stress as well. To reduce the pressure of finding a new position, remember that as a military spouse you may qualify for unemployment benefits if you have to leave your job due to a PCS move.

Unemployment Benefits: Who Qualifies

The Federal-State Unemployment Insurance, otherwise known as unemployment benefits, is a program managed at the state level. Each state sets its own criteria for who qualifies to receive this cash benefit in case of sudden unemployment.

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

While you might not always be deemed eligible for unemployment benefits, it’s something to look into when you’re going from a dual-income household to a single-income household.

Unemployment Benefits: How to Apply

You will likely be able to file for unemployment online or over the phone with your state’s Department of Labor. 

Before completing the application, however, you should have on hand:

  1. What information you’ll need to provide; and
  1. What qualifications you’ll have to meet to be eligible. 

Read on to learn more about what you’ll need. 

When to Apply for Unemployment Benefits

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.

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

3 Tips on the Ins and Outs of Unemployment Benefits for Military Spouses

Many people never consider the possibility of filing for unemployment benefits until they need it most. Read our top 3 tips on the ins and outs of unemployment benefits for military spouses below.

Tip #1: Remember That Unemployment Benefits Are Taxable

Unemployment benefits are considered federally taxable income, and unbeknownst to some, the income tax is not withheld when you receive your unemployment benefits. This means that you will need to hold a percentage back yourself in order to avoid an unexpected tax bill at the beginning of the following year.

Another option is to have your taxes withdrawn, in which case the IRS will automatically withdraw 10% of your unemployment benefits.

Tip #2: Know When To Quit

By “know when to quit,” we don’t mean giving up on receiving your benefits. Instead, you should 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 ten days prior to that date. It’s essential to understand the laws and restrictions surrounding unemployment benefits 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.

Tip #3: Learn the Requirements to Keep Your Benefits

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 be sure to keep track of your job searching and properly report your progress.

States That Provide Unemployment Benefits to Military Spouses Who Resign for a PCS Move

46 States offer unemployment benefits to military spouses who leave their jobs due to their service member’s PCS. The four states that classify a PCS job loss as “voluntary” and do not provide unemployment benefits for it are: 

  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • North Dakota; and 
  • Ohio

Check your state’s eligibility criteria by visiting your state’s Department of Labor (DOL) website. Note that when filing, you’ll likely need your:

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

CONUS to OCONUS: Military Spouse Unemployment Due to PCS Overseas

We’ve covered that most states will honor leaving a job because of a PCS move as a qualifier to receive unemployment benefits.

The question remains, though, what about military spouse unemployment due to PCSing overseas? 

The answer is, it depends. Many states with a military-specific guideline may also include a “trailing spouse” guideline for non-military moves. For both of these situations, however, most states do not mention overseas assignments. 

It’s worth it to file the claim and go through the appeals process, if necessary. With some evidence showing you’ll still be able to apply to jobs, the appeals clerk might approve your request.

The Best Tool For Financial Stability In a Time of Transition

Losing a job can be difficult. 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 very long.

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About Meredith Morales

Meredith is a military spouse who has experienced the struggles of managing PCS moves, handling family finances, waiting through NTC rotations, and preparing for her husband’s upcoming deployment.

Before joining the military community, Meredith worked in Tacoma, Washington. There, she supported Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Service members, civilian employees, and their families by building and promoting programs for transit, bikes, carpools, and vanpools.

At JBLM Meredith was introduced to her US Army husband. They now reside in El Paso, Texas, with their Boston terrier mix.

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