Military Spouse Preference for Department of Defense Employment

Woman hands on laptop typing

As part of its commitment to help military spouses build their careers and find meaningful employment, the Department of Defense offers a hiring preference to military spouses when they apply for Department of Defense jobs through USAJobs.

The Department of Defense Priority Placement Program, or PPP, has improved the process for military spouses to use their military spouse hiring preference, making your life easier and giving you more control over your job search. Now you can:

Interested in a federal job? SECO can help.

The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program offers military spouses free career coaching that can help you navigate the federal hiring process.

  • Apply for positions directly through USAJobs, not through individual agency or installation HR departments.
  • Find Department of Defense positions alongside those from other federal agencies on USAJobs.
  • Apply for as many positions as you want; no more limitations to the number of applications, job categories.
  • You can use military spouse preference for one offer of permanent federal employment (including NAF and AAFES) per duty location.

These improvements to the hiring process give military spouses more control over their job search and freedom to make the right decisions for their careers and families. Check out our answers to some of your frequently asked questions about military spouse preference for federal employment.

What is military spouse preference? Does that mean I’m guaranteed a job?add
Who is eligible to apply for jobs designated for military spouse preference?add
How does a military spouse apply for jobs open to military spouse hiring preference?add
Does the new application-based system mean military spouses are losing any benefits of the PPP?add
What can a spouse do to increase his/her chances for success in obtaining a Department of Defense job?add
Is the military spouse preference different when applying for federal jobs on OCONUS installations?add

Use free military support services to find your next position

Most installations have a civilian personnel office or human resources office that can give you more information about military spouse preference. They can also:

  • Refer you to local job opportunities on the installation, with other federal agencies and in the local community;
  • Tell you what paperwork is required for certain positions; and
  • Help you create a resume and other job application materials.

Visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to find your installation’s civilian personnel office or human resources office. You can also take advantage of the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program’s free career coaching services by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or the Military Spouse Employment Partnership to look for a job in the private sector with employers seeking military spouse employees.

Life As a Male Military Spouse

Military woman hugs her husband

As a male military spouse, you are part of a community that values you. While you and your wife may be comfortable with your role in the family, you have probably learned that not everyone understands your place in the community. By learning about what to expect in your role as a male military spouse, you can keep your marriage strong and manage your expectations so that the military community becomes your support.

What to expect when your spouse is in the military

Military spouses are predominately female. As a male military spouse, you face some of the following situations:

  • Other people assume you’re the service member. You may find yourself explaining to people over and over again that you’re a civilian and your spouse is a service member.
  • You may feel isolated. This is particularly true if you move to a new location where you don’t have family or friends. You may have little in common with the other spouses, who could be mostly women. You may have left your job or sources of social support behind.
  • You may feel uneasy because your spouse spends so much time with other men. If you feel anxious because most of your spouse’s unit is male, talk with your spouse or a professional counselor about your concerns before your feelings affect your marriage.
  • Your role in the marriage may clash with your identity as a male. Role reversals can be difficult for any couple and can be especially challenging in the military setting, which emphasizes traditional ideas of masculinity. You may find yourself being a stay-at-home parent.

Adjusting to being a male civilian spouse

The military is becoming more aware of the unique needs of male spouses, but the spouse support system is still primarily geared toward women. Don’t let this discourage you. Here are some ideas to help you adjust to military life as a male spouse:

  • Think of ways you’ve adjusted to new situations in the past. You’ve done it before, whether it was going to college, starting a job or getting married. Think about how you adjusted to those changes before.
  • Connect with people and organizations. Look for groups like clubs, civic groups, sports teams and faith-based groups to help build your support network and get involved with the community.
  • Take advantage of Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities, events and trips. They offer outdoor recreation opportunities, fitness classes, sports programs and a range of other classes and services designed to help you meet other people with similar interests.
  • Reach out to other couples like you and your spouse. It can help to be with someone who’s in the same situation as you.
  • Focus on your own career. Being a military spouse doesn’t mean you can’t have a career, too. The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program offers access to the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship for eligible spouses, certified Career Counselors through Military OneSource, and more than 270 employers as part of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.
  • Make time to do things you enjoy as a couple. Military life can be busy, and taking time together to do positive, fun things can easily get pushed to the back burner. Make the time and focus on enjoying yourselves, even if that means agreeing not to talk about certain issues during those times.
  • Talk openly as a couple. Keeping the lines of communication open with your spouse is vital to maintaining a strong relationship.

Getting support

Know when and where to get help if your marriage is starting to show signs of strain, or if you need help dealing with your stress. Call or see a good friend or family member that you feel comfortable talking with. You can also visit the chaplain on your installation, or call Military OneSource (800-342-9647) to talk to someone about your relationship or to find out about resources. If you are in crisis, you can contact the Military Crisis Line 24 hours a day (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1).

Even though most military spouses are female, you can still fit in and make military life a positive experience. There are plenty of opportunities, both on the installation and in the community, to enjoy the military lifestyle and become comfortable in your role.

Installation Employment Readiness Specialists: A Valuable Resource for You

Two people discuss handout during a job fair

While you can access certified career counselors through Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647, you can also access face-to-care employment readiness specialists at most installations. They can help you with a wide range of employment-related areas through workshops, classes, small group instruction and one-on-one support. Employment readiness specialists provide many services at no charge, including assistance with:

  • Career exploration. You’ve got skills, but what can you do with them? Employment readiness specialists can help you understand how your skills, interests and goals align with career possibilities through career assessments, skill assessments, skill-building classes, and career counseling and coaching.
  • Education, training and licensing. Now you know where you want to be, but how do you get there? Employment readiness specialists can help you figure out what academic, licensing or credentialing requirements are needed for your dream job and help you find financial aid to go after them.
  • Employment readiness. You’ve got all the skills needed for the job, but how do you find it and get it? Employment readiness specialists can help improve your self-marketing skills through job strategies and support, job searches and social media etiquette, finding jobs with the federal government, resume writing, dressing for success and interview skills.
  • Career connections. Where do you find all those employers who want employees just like you? Employment readiness specialists can help you identify career connections that promote the hiring of military spouses. These include the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Career Portal, local and installation job fairs, online career networks, community partnerships and federal appointment authorities.
  • Referrals to other services. Are you job-search ready and busy juggling everything else that your search keeps taking a backseat? Employment readiness specialists can also provide you with referrals to other services supporting well-being, such as health and fitness, family life education and personal financial management services.

Locating an employment readiness specialist

Each service has its own employment readiness program, and while the names may vary from one service to the next, they all share the common goal of assisting military spouses in finding meaningful employment. The names of the program for each branch of service are:

  • Army – Employment Readiness Program
  • Marine Corps – Family Member Employment Assistance Program
  • Navy – Family Employment Readiness Program
  • Air Force – Employment Assistance Program

As a military spouse, you are welcome to visit any employment readiness office or Military and Family Support Center.

Your installation employment readiness specialist can provide you the tools, resources and personalized services you need for a successful job search. Let them help you find your next job or start your new career today.

Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act for Divorced Spouses in the Military

Hand signing papers

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act is a federal law that provides certain benefits to former spouses of military members. Under this law, former spouses may be entitled to portions of the military member’s retirement pay, medical care, and exchange and commissary benefits.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act:

  • Allows state courts to divide disposable military retired pay between the service member and spouse
  • Allows former spouses to receive a portion of retired pay directly from the government in some circumstances
  • Grants some former spouses access to health care at military treatment facilities
  • Grants some former spouses access to military exchanges and commissaries
  • Grants benefits to some victims of spousal or child abuse

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act doesn’t:

  • Require courts to divide military retired pay
  • Establish a formula for dividing military retired pay
  • Award a predetermined share of military retired pay to former spouses
  • Place a ceiling on the percentage of disposable retired pay that may be awarded
  • Require an overlap of military service and marriage as a prerequisite to division of military retired pay as property

Jurisdiction under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act prevents a court from treating retired pay as the property of the service member and spouse unless the court has jurisdiction over the service member based on the service member’s:

  • Residence other than because of military assignment
  • Domicile
  • Consent to the court’s jurisdiction

Direct payment of retired pay

Direct payment of retired pay may be made to a former spouse from the military pay centers if there’s a court order or a property settlement that was ordered, ratified or approved by the court, and if the final order specifically provides that payment is to be made from disposable retired pay for one of the following:

  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Division of retired pay as property if the former spouse was married to the member for 10 years or more, during which time the member performed 10 years or more of creditable service, and the order expresses payment in dollars or a percentage of the member’s disposable retired pay

Direct payments will terminate on these events, whichever comes first:

  • Terms of the court order are satisfied
  • Death of the retired service member
  • Death of the former spouse

Procedure for request for direct pay

The former spouse must send the following items to the designated agent of the member’s uniformed service:

  • Signed DD Form 2293, “Application for Former Spouse Payments from Retired Pay”
  • A copy of the court order
  • Other accompanying documents that provide for payment of child support, alimony or division of property, certified by an official of the issuing court within the previous 90 days

Notification to the designated agent can be made by:

  • Regular mail
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Certified mail

No later than 30 days after effective service, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service:

  • Will send written notice to the affected member at the last known address
  • Will consider any response received from the service member
  • May reject any request for direct pay that doesn’t satisfy requirements
  • Won’t honor the court order whenever it’s shown to be defective, modified, superseded or set aside

No later than 90 days after effective service, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will make payment to the former spouse and inform him or her of the amount to be paid, or send the former spouse an explanation of why the court order wasn’t honored.

Impact of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act on Survivor Benefit Plan designation

Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, a former spouse can be designated as a Survivor Benefit Plan beneficiary if the spouse was previously listed as a spouse beneficiary, with the following considerations:

  • Voluntary or court-ordered designation
  • Divorce after retirement: The former spouse’s coverage will be the same amount as the spouse coverage.
  • Divorce before retirement: The specific coverage level should be directed by court order.
  • Former spouse remarriage before age 55: Eligibility as a beneficiary is lost unless the remarriage ends, and then eligibility is restored.