Unemployment Insurance

The Idea

Allow spouses to become eligible for unemployment compensation if they leave their jobs for reasons connected to their spouses’ reassignments, deployments, or medical treatments.


The Issue

In nearly one-third of the states, the decision to give up a job to follow a military spouse is considered a “voluntary separation” from an employer. These states do not consider such resignations “good cause” for awarding unemployment compensation. As many so-called “trailing spouses” understand, however, such decisions are not voluntary.

Unemployment insurance is especially important for spouses who may experience as many as 14 moves during a 27-year career, have an unemployment rate of 26 percent rate, and earn 25 percent less than civilian counterparts.


What States are Doing

As of mid-2011, 35 states allowed trailing spouses who left their jobs for reasons connected to military service to collect unemployment insurance; these states cite spousal military obligation as “good cause” for leaving a job. Several laws include unique provisions:

  • Colorado allows surviving spouses of Colorado residents killed in action to collect unemployment if they move following a spouse’s death.
  • California allows trailing military fiancés, as well as spouses, to claim unemployment.
  • Georgia and Illinois allow trailing spouses to collect unemployment compensation but specify their former employers’ accounts will not be charged for the payments.
  • Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine and Utah allow all trailing spouses, military or non-military, the ability to seek unemployment.

States that do not allow trailing spouses to collect unemployment are: Alabama, Alaska, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia.