Joe Biden

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Sweeping Executive Actions to Strengthen Economic Opportunity for Military and Veteran Spouses, Caregivers, and Survivors

June 09, 2023

Today, at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, President Biden will announce a comprehensive set of executive actions to increase the economic security of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors. Joined by First Lady Jill Biden, alongside service members, veterans, and their families, caregivers, and survivors, the President will sign an Executive Order that includes nearly 20 actions aimed at enhancing career stability and expanding employment resources and support for this community.

In times of both peace and war, military-connected families sacrifice for our country, answering the call to duty over and again. Many military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors—the vast majority of whom are women—struggle to achieve their desired career goals due to the strains of multiple deployments; frequent moves with little control over their geographic location; caring for wounded, ill, and injured service members or veterans; time apart for training, and more. Although military spouses are talented, diverse, and resilient, they find themselves facing a 21 percent unemployment rate, a rate that has not significantly changed over the past decade. Employment challenges are not limited to active-duty spouses, as Reserve and National Guard spouses must balance their careers against the challenges that arise during those times when their service member is activated and deployed. What we have learned from generations of service is that the unique demands of military life continue to affect veteran families, caregivers, and survivors for years after a service member's time in uniform.

The President and First Lady, as a military family, recognize the commitment and resilience of military-connected families as essential to the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces. Since Day One of the Biden Administration, Dr. Biden, through her Joining Forces initiative, has worked to eliminate barriers to employment and increase economic opportunity for military families. Meeting the economic, social, and emotional needs of our military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors is a national security imperative.

Always—and particularly as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force-- we owe them nothing less than the dignity of a meaningful career and the opportunity to build economic security for their families. That is why today, the President is taking further action to help military-connected spouses, including the more than 16,000 military, veteran, and surviving spouses in the Federal workforce. These actions demonstrate the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to upholding our sacred obligation and will ensure our nation's military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors have access to resources and support to enhance their economic security.

Highlights of today's Executive Order include:

  1. Directing the development of a government-wide Strategic Plan on Hiring and Retention for Military and Veteran Spouses, Caregivers, and Survivors. To ensure the coordination of military-connected hiring and retention efforts across the Federal government, the Executive Order directs the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with the Secretaries of Defense, Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, to identify strategies to eliminate barriers to the hiring and retention of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors. The Strategic Plan, due within 180 days following the signing of this Executive Order, will include plans for marketing the talent, experience, and diversity of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors to agencies and encouragement for agencies to set benchmarks to improve performance and accountability.
  2. Increasing Federal job postings utilizing the Military Spouse Noncompetitive Appointment Authority. In order to expand this critical pathway for hiring military spouses in Federal government positions, the Executive Order directs agencies to include spouses eligible under the Military Spouse Noncompetitive Appointment Authority when soliciting applications from outside of their workforce.
  3. Setting government-wide standards to improve the Domestic Employee Teleworking Overseas (DETO) program. The Domestic Employee Telework Overseas (DETO) program, which enables certain Federal employees to work remotely from an overseas location, helps the government carry out its global mission, supports family unification, and retains valuable talent and expertise in the Federal workforce, including military spouses residing with their service member stationed overseas. The Executive Order directs agencies to develop common standards, processing timelines, and communication guidelines, and establishes a permanent Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Defense and the Department of State regarding military spouses participating in the DETO program.
  4. Bolstering access to child care for military families. To continue building on the existing support and ensure that military families have access to affordable, high-quality child care allowing both the service member and the spouse to pursue professional opportunities, the Executive Order directs the implementation of Dependent Care Flexible Saving Accounts for service members no later than January 1, 2024, as well as expansion of pathways for military spouses to provide home-based child care on military installations.
  5. Providing additional tools to help retain military spouses and caregivers, in the public and private sectors. In order to support the retention of military-connected spouses and caregivers in both Federal and private sector careers, the Executive Order directs several actions including:
    1. Encouraging Federal agencies to grant up to five days of administrative leave for military spouses in conjunction with a Permanent Change of Station (PCS);
    2. Directing OPM to issue guidance to agencies outlining telework and remote work flexibility for military spouses and caregivers to convey the importance of retention efforts of this resilient community of Federal employees;
    3. Encouraging Federal agencies to collaborate to place a military spouse or caregiver in another position following changes to support continuity of care or relocation due to a PCS that makes it untenable for them to continue in their existing position.
    4. Amending legal assistance instructions across the Military Departments to allow families to receive advice related to employment under Status of Forces Agreements or other host nation agreements; and
    5. Reinforcing the importance of considering remote work options for military spouses when reevaluating or entering agreements with host nations.
  6. Improving support for military spouses during transition. Recognizing that military spouses also experience challenges during a service member's transition to veteran status, the Executive Order directs the Secretaries of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs to collaborate to advance support for military spouses in the workforce through the transition to veteran spouse status.
  7. Developing tailored resources for military and veteran spouse entrepreneurs. To support military-connected spouse entrepreneurs in starting and sustaining their businesses, the Executive Order directs the Small Business Administration to develop tailored resources, including guidance to help military spouses with relocating a business following a geographic relocation, and to evaluate gaps in access to capital for this community.
  8. Improving the collection of data on military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors in the Federal workforce. The Executive Order charges the Office of Science and Technology Policy and agencies with reviewing opportunities to improve collection of data on the military-connected population. With improved data on military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors employed in the Federal workforce, agencies will be better able to take an evidence-informed approach to reducing barriers in hiring, promotion, professional development, and retention practices.
  9. Expanding training on the employment of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors across the agencies. Today's Executive Order directs all Federal agencies to provide annual training for agency human resources personnel and hiring managers concerning the employment of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors, including training on special authorities for the hiring of military spouses and survivors. These trainings will equip agencies with best practices to access and support this capable and diverse pool of talent.

The Biden-Harris Administration's Record on Strengthening America's Military and Veteran Families, Caregivers, and Survivors

Together, these actions build on the commitment of the Biden-Harris Administration to enhance the health, wellbeing, and economic security of military and veteran families, caregivers and survivors.

In September 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration published the Strengthening America's Military Families report. Prepared by representatives from the White House with contributions from Federal agencies, the report was signed by the President with a foreword by Dr. Biden, and outlined the first round of Administration-wide key commitments to better understand and meet the needs of the families of service members and veterans, caregivers, and survivors. In the report, all Executive Agencies across the President's Cabinet announced their participation in the Department of Defense's Military Spouse Employment Partnership. Continuing to build on that support across the agencies, Joining Forces collaborated with military-connected spouses to create a community platform to connect military and veteran spouses, caregivers and survivors in the Federal workforce with resources for sustainable careers.

In January 2023, the Defense Department launched a 12-week paid fellowship program to expand employment opportunities for eligible military spouses in the private sector, and in March 2023, Secretary Austin announced additional actions to enhance military family economic security, including the expansion of eligibility for the military spouse career advancement financial assistance program. The President also directed the Secretary of Defense to initiate the 14th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation to evaluate pay and benefits with a particular focus on factors such as the challenge of military spouse unemployment, frequent military moves, periods of geographic separation between service members and their spouses (including dual military couples), and childcare access and cost.

And, in April 2023, the President signed Executive Order 14095, "Increasing Access to High Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers." Among the many directives were several focused on making child care and long-term care more accessible and affordable for families, including military families. The actions also improve access to home-based care for veterans and enhance job quality for child-care and long-term care workers which in turn will ease burdens for military and veteran families, military caregivers, and survivors.

Joseph R. Biden, FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Sweeping Executive Actions to Strengthen Economic Opportunity for Military and Veteran Spouses, Caregivers, and Survivors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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