How to File for Unemployment After a PCS

man filing paperwork
(D.J. Schwartz/DVIDS)

Updated: 10/22/2021

You finally get the job of your dreams. You work at it for a year or so and are just getting comfortable. Then, whoosh -- the rug is pulled out from under your feet as your active-duty spouse tells you you'll be moving. Again.

And you'll be giving up your job again, most likely with no guarantee of a new one when you arrive at the next post.

Is there anything you can do about this? What about filing for unemployment?

Unless you’re working in Alaska, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, unemployment is a tax that employers pay. It’s funded at the federal and state level. But you are responsible for paying taxes on the unemployment income you receive.

Currently, 46 states offer unemployment compensation for military spouses who leave their jobs due to their service member's permanent change of station (PCS). Those that aren't on board yet? Idaho, Louisiana, Ohio and North Dakota.

Are you eligible for unemployment?

All military spouses should check whether they are eligible to receive the benefit. Each state has the right to set its own rules, so check with the state you are leaving. Here's how it works:

  • Spouses are eligible as long as they meet general eligibility criteria.
  • Your employer will not be penalized if you file an unemployment claim. Compensation is taken from the state's general unemployment fund.
  • Factors figuring into eligibility include: minimum hours worked, the reason for leaving employment, geographical distance between employer and your new location, and whether you will pursue employment opportunities in the new location.

But that doesn't always mean you will receive benefits. In 2013, the Military Officers Association of America, along with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, conducted a survey and found:

  • 29% of respondents had been denied unemployment benefits in 2013 and 2014.
  • No one state had a high percentage of unemployment denials.
  • Some spouses are deemed ineligible even though they relocated because of military orders.

The bottom line is this: Even though you might not always be deemed eligible for unemployment compensation, it is worth checking into. Unemployment compensation helps bridge the financial gap families face when they shift from dual-income to single-income status.

How do you file for unemployment?

The first thing to remember is that the state you'll be filing a claim with is the state you were working in before the PCS. So if you moved from North Carolina to California, you file in North Carolina. You can check here to find the contact information for your state's unemployment insurance program as soon as you become unemployed.

You'll need to have information such as the address and dates of your former employment handy when filing, and the first check may take two to three weeks to get to you after filing is complete.

As with all things related to employment and PCSing, you'll want to know even more. Spending time talking to those who have navigated the unemployment process already will help, as well as talking to your local unemployment office before your move.

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