Employee Benefits from a Military Spouse Perspective

As a military spouse, your decision to accept a new position is often guided by the needs of your family. Salary may be a key driver, but it is also important to take the time to list out the benefits that are important to you as you weigh your employment decision.

Employers offer a variety of benefits to employees as part of the employee compensation package. There is no standard formula regarding the types of benefits a company may offer to their workers or the costs to the workers for receiving the benefits. Listed below is information on some common benefits and points to consider.

  • Paid time off. Paid leave or PTO is one of the most universal and appreciated benefits provided to employees. PTO includes holiday pay, vacation pay and sick pay. The national average of company paid holidays is eight per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Vacation is typically accumulated by the length of time at a job. Some companies have paid sick time policies ranging from six to 30 days a year.
  • Health insurance. Many military spouses are covered by the TRICARE health care program and TRICARE Dental and also have the opportunity to participate in an employer health care plan. TRICARE is secondary to any other health insurance received through an employer or private insurance program, so you should investigate whether having an alternative health care plan through your employer is really a good option for you. Most companies require employees to pay a portion of their health care premium, so if you're covered under TRICARE, you may choose not to enroll in the company plan. Also, since health care coverage is expensive for employers, some spouses have negotiated alternative benefits in exchange for not participating in the employer health care plan.
  • Short and long-term disability and life insurance. Some companies offer short and long-term disability and basic life insurance plans at no cost or low cost to their employees. Purchasing these types of insurance plans is a personal decision, but the benefits often outweigh the costs because of the peace of mind it brings to military families by providing coverage for spouse and family members in case of an accident, illness or death. Monies received can be used to pay bills, cover final expenses, pay off debt or help replace lost income.
  • Retirement plans. Although retirement may seem a long way down the road, you may want to prepare for the future by investing in a retirement plan, particularly if your contribution is supplemented or matched by your employer. The Department of Labor designates two main types of retirement plans - defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans.

    A defined benefit plan is funded by the employer and promises a specific monthly benefit at retirement. A defined contribution plan does not promise a specific amount at retirement but allows you to contribute money to your individual account in the plan. Your employer may offer to match your contributions up to a certain percentage. 401(k) plans, Simple IRA plan, Simplified Employee Pension Plan, Employee Stock Ownership Plan and profit sharing plans are all types of defined contribution plans.

    Ask your plan administrator, human resources office or employer for information on available plans. Make sure you understand details of the plan including match, roll-over requirements, maximum contributions and more. Detailed information can be found on the DOL website - DOL - What You Should Know about Your Retirement Plan.
  • Tuition assistance/tuition reimbursement programs. Employers often offer tuition assistance programs to pay for all or part of an employee's cost to attend training, college or university classes to encourage employee development and create a more valuable workforce. Most employers will cap the dollars spent per employee or the number of classes they will pay per year. Military spouses can take advantage of tuition assistance/reimbursement programs offered by their employers to develop new skills and further their education.
  • Telecommuting. Telecommuting is a benefit that has increased in popularity as technology has improved. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report stated that many companies allow telecommuting or working from home at least 20 percent of the time. This saves employees fuel, time and wardrobe and is reported to increase employee productivity and satisfaction. Often employees with minor illnesses can work from home, get the job done and not infect their coworkers. Organizations offering telecommuting options may be more likely to consider allowing spouses to keep their position when faced with a military relocation.
  • Miscellaneous benefits that might make you jealous. Many Military Spouse Employment Partnership corporate partners offer benefits that stand out from the pack. Lowe's offers innovative health care benefits including no cost approved heart surgery procedures to full-time employees and their dependents. In 2012, as part of Lowe's Life Track Program, they launched a mobile health screening tour providing over 70,000 Lowe's employees with free basic health care screenings and guidance on how to improve their health. Convergys, Alpine Access and Teletech offer many employees the opportunity to train and work 100 percent of their work week from home-based offices. ADP, one of the world's largest providers of workforce solutions, offers many opportunities to save for the future including a pension plan, 401K, ADP stock purchase and stock options plans. ADP also has a company credit union, offers auto and home insurance plans and provides on-site child care at some of their locations. Sign into the MSEP website and find a full list of MSEP Partners including information and links to their websites.

Job seekers have different ideas about the definition of a perfect job, but most are hoping for a position that will provide the salary, benefits and work-life balance they seek. Understanding the types of available benefits and dividing them into categories of necessary, nice and who cares should make it easier to choose a job or a benefit package.

Research the websites of companies you'd like to work for to see the benefit packages they offer and determine if their benefits meet your needs before applying to the company. Hopefully, you'll find a company, a position and benefits that are a perfect match for you.


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