Military Spouse Unemployment Backgrounder: Defining the Problem

Hey, I was talking with Blue Star Families (BSF) last month, and one of our big topics of conversation was the crises of military spouse unemployment. This is a really big deal, and something that Blue Star Families’ identified through their annual survey.

Like lots of American families, lots of military families need two earners for financial stability and to achieve their families goals.  The crises of spouse unemployment really undermines our population, especially when they’re most vulnerable – during transition, if a service member wants to go back to school, in case of injury or PTSD, etc.  BSF really has their feet on the ground working hard to craft solutions, and they’ve outlined some of the main concerns below.


Unemployment rate for military spouses is many times higher than US average.

  • Our country should be proud of the robust programs and public-private partnerships that have successfully lowered the veteran unemployment rate in recent years; however, joblessness among the spouses of active duty service members has remained alarmingly high and largely unnoticed: 3-4 times the rate of most vets and of the general public.
  • Through over a decade of war military spouses have sacrificed and supported the service member and our country, now it’s time to help them find jobs.
    The Blue Star Families 2013 survey showed that more than half of the spouses who are not working want to be working now.

Military spouses want and need unemployment but can’t find it.

  • Addressing the military spouse unemployment problem isn’t just the right thing to do for military spouses who have also sacrificed during 12 years of war—it’s also the smart thing to do.  RAND research has found military spouse employment to be an essential source of income for most military families.
  • 91,000 or 1 in 4 military spouses who are actively looking for work are unable to find it—that translates into a 26% unemployment rate among military spouses.

Military spouses experience the same career challenges as their civilian counterparts; however, they also face additional obstacles to pursuing employment that are specific to the military lifestyle.

  • Military families move every 2-4 years and will reside in 8-12 different locations during a typical 20 year career.
  • Many military bases are located in remote locations, removed from many opportunities for traditional career employment.

When military spouses are able to find a job, they work fewer hours and for less pay than individuals with similar educations, experience, and marital status.

  • Military spouses earn 25% less than comparable individuals not married to service members.
  • Implications Include National Security and Stalled Demobilization/Reintegration Efforts.

Military spouse unemployment threatens the financial well-being and quality of life of military families, thus impacting national military retention and readiness.

  • Spouse employment is correlated with satisfaction with a military lifestyle and research suggests that spousal satisfaction is the most significant determinant in whether a service member will continue a military career.
  • The current US draw-down means over 100,000 military members will have made a transition out of the military within a few years.  Employed spouses facilitate the successful transition of service members to civilian life by providing a steady source of income while veteran is searching for a civilian job.

As in the civilian world, one (military or otherwise) salary alone does not usually sustain families and most military families want to be dual income families.

  • Causes are varied, but predominantly relate to job market alignment and poor employer understanding of the military family lifestyle.

A military family lifestyle means military spouses face additional challenges to employment.

  • Job market alignment challenges arising from frequent geographic re-locations, prolonged family separations and unpredictable work hours represent significant challenges to consistent employment and career growth for military spouses.

Many employers harbor erroneous conceptions or poor understanding of military spouses.

  • Military spouse resumes may have employment gaps or short periods of employment that suggest instability on unreliability; rather, it reflects military spouses’ resiliency, resourcefulness and commitment to supporting their active duty spouse and the needs of our country.
  • Solutions require broadly increasing awareness of the problem and connecting employers and military spouses to existing nonprofit and government initiatives.

Broader societal and employer awareness.

  • The Hiring our Heroes (HOH) program (sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce) holds military spouse hiring fairs at major US bases throughout the country, bringing corporate employers to military spouse communities.  Blue Star Families is honored to partner with Hiring our Heroes to make spouse hiring fairs a success.  HOH features the spouse’s guide to employment, the Blue Star Spouse Employment Toolkit, which BSF developed to help spouses translate significant volunteer experience into resume-ready information.

Developing quality portable and work-from-home positions for military spouses that enable employment continuity and career advancement.

  • Blue Star Jobs is Blue Star Families solution to remote locations, frequent moves, and heightened care-giving responsibilities.  It offers employers the opportunity to search and hire military spouses for work-at-home positions through a joint initiative with an on-line contract-job platform,  Through Blue Star Jobs, military spouses can find career-quality contractor work they can do at home, in the hours they want to work, and have their jobs move with them when it is time to change duty stations.

Employment solutions must meet spouses where they are and be built into existing military family life structures rather than asking spouses to fit into or follow conventional/civilian employment advice.

Blue Star Networks enable spouses to establish professional networks in the most common military spouse professions, to find local information about the job market in an upcoming duty station, and obtain advice and tips about complying with new state licensing requirements. Blue Star Networks are run via Facebook in order to provide the dynamic and easily accessible delivery platform that makes it easy for military spouses to stay current on changing employment information and professional resources.

In addition, Blue Star Families has a number of education related programs to help get military spouses career-ready.


To get more involved, folks, you can visit the Blue Star Family website, follow them on Twitter, or chat with them on Facebook.

A letter to Men Who Trust Women

Hey, Your support for Men Who Trust Women is really important.

Reproductive health’s now center stage in political debates and legislation.

Men really can, should, and do play an important role in all of this.  Unfortunately, there are bad actors out there who oppose choice, and they often speak up to dominate the national conversation about women’s health. I feel that we should treat everyone like we want to be treated, and that means everyone gets a break.

Men Who Trust Women is really making a difference though.  A new national initiative of the Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women, Men Who Trust Women is the real deal. They’re a vibrant and growing national network that really has their feet on the ground. They provide a unique opportunity for prominent men to play a visible, supportive, and influential role as allies for women’s rights to make decisions about their health.

Your support for this Initiative’s critical. In the US, the Declaration of Independence tells us that we’re all equal under law, and I’m talking about following through with that.

The majority of the US public strongly supports the right to reproductive health care, including access to affordable contraception and legal abortion.  This is something that’s really important.  But, here’s the deal, opponents in state legislatures and in Congress continue to aggressively legislate away access to basic reproductive health care, with real consequences for our health and our democracy. States have passed laws banning abortion after only 6 weeks. Our Peace Corps members do not have access to coverage for abortion, and the military folks are only covered in rare, exceptional cases.


Please join us as a Member of Men Who Trust Women, along with other prominent supporters, including Chip Conley (founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and author), Howard Dean MD (former Governor and presidential candidate), and Vinod Khosla (respected Venture Capitalist). We know that reproductive rights and democracy are essential to our own lives as family members, friends, colleagues, and we welcome this opportunity to speak out as leaders and express our views. It’s just the right thing to do; and a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

If you’re able, please take the opportunity to contribute your financial support. It’s important to take a public stand for reproductive rights. You can donate online at Men Who Trust Women – Donate

Joe Brenner, National Coordinator of Men Who Trust Women, will contact you to discuss the Initiative’s strategic program. We really appreciate all your support. It’s not altruism, it just feels right.

Craig Newmark

VA gives vets up to a year of retroactive benefits for using FDCs to help reduce the backlog


The Department of Veterans Affairs is reducing the backlog in disability claims with approaches including Fully Developed Claims, FDCs.

FDC processing is expedited, and can reduce the time and effort it takes for VA workers to get ’em done… which means they can focus on more difficult cases.The deal with an FDC is that a vet provides all supporting evidence they can find when they submit the claim. It’s often easier for the vet to do that, since otherwise VA has to get it from the Department of Defense, which can take longer. (VA’s working on this, more on that later.)

Vets can use eBenefits to file, simply log in and select “Apply for Benefits.” Vets can also get help from Vets Service Orgs, who can do the same thing through their own online tools.

In turn, VA gives vets an incentive to file FDCs for disability compensation — by giving up to a year of awarded benefits if they use one. The incentive is part of the “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.”

Check details: only Veterans who are submitting their very first compensation claim as an FDC are potentially eligible for up to one-year of retroactive disability benefits under the newly implemented law.

For more:

WiFi to help out with HIV/AIDS on Mfangano Island

Hey, I help out The Organic Health Response on Mfangano Island, and gave them some money a few months ago to help upgrade their wifi. You’ll see them on the Teching Across the Globe map. They’ve been using IT and environmental sustainability on Mfangano Island in Western Kenya to work against HIV/AIDS across Lake Victoria. And I’ve been helping them over the years.

teching across the globe

Well recently, they provided me with a 2013 update about how the money I donated has helped them out:

“The Organic Health Response on Mfangano Island has recently upgraded its record-breaking WiFi link to provide expanded Internet access for rural users on this remote island.

Thanks to support from the craigconnects and craigslist Charitable Fund, OHR worked with SF-based Inveneo to implement new noise buffering dishes that strengthen their 90-km wireless link from the mainland to OHR’s wind-powered tower on Mfangano. From this unique tower, they are also now able to provide access to commercial users at sites throughout the island.Their first client is the Ministry of Health who now receives 1MBS speeds for clinicians at a rural HIV/AIDS clinic in Sena village.

Through local innovation, hard work, strong global relationships, OHR, Inveneo, craigconnects, and craigslist Charitable Fund continue to move forward towards establishing East Africa’s first Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) on Lake Victoria.”

wifi efforts

This is real important stuff, and can help a lot of people out. More to come. I’d like to say that the sun never sets on the Nerdish Empire…

Why Men Must “Lean In” to Support Women’s Leadership

Guys, let’s help get more women into public office.
Okay, this is about fairness, and getting better government everywhere.

I feel that we should treat everyone like we want to be treated, and that means everyone gets a break. That also means that all humans should have a chance to lead, in business and in government. In the US, the Declaration of Independence tells us that we’re all equal under law, and I’m talking about following through with that.

Me with Jane Harman, Shelly Kapoor Collins, and Rangita de Silva de Alwis at the Bryn Mawr event.

In daily life and in government, when I see women running things, things usually work really well. Sure, there are some examples which seem to be deliberate, like in politics where a woman might front for bad actors, but that’s the exception.

Women’s leadership might be the key to unlocking progress in both government and the business world:

Even though women make up just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, McKinsey studies show that America’s GDP is now 25% higher than it would have been without women. All because of women’s work in the marketplace.

A Goldman Sachs study also argues that eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost GDP in America by a total of 9 percent, in the Eurozone by 13 percent, and in Japan by as much as 16 percent.

Recent McKinsey studies show that higher numbers of women in executive positions can result in higher rates of corporate return on equity.

Women voices bring a different perspective to the table in the public sector. Esther Duflo’s research shows that women are more likely to invest in public infrastructure projects—like safe drinking water— and are less likely to feed into corruption than their male counterparts. For example, at the local-level, women-led village councils approved 60 percent more drinking water projects than those led by men. This correlation between women’s leadership and development outcomes is clear.

Another study titled “Gender and Corruption”  finds that “(a) in hypothetical situations, women are less likely to condone corruption, (b) women managers are less involved in bribery, and (c) countries which have greater representation of women in government or in market work have lower levels of corruption.”

(Adapted from Rangita de Silva de Alwis’s forthcoming article on “Why Women’s Leadership is the Cause of Our Time” to be published in UCLA Law School’s Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs)

Guys, it’s time that we helped make this happen.

I’ve joined up with the Women in Public Service Project to play my part.

WPSP was started a few years ago by Hillary Clinton to promote female leadership across the world. It’s already successful giving leaders a chance, particularly in parts of the world where leadership from a woman can get her killed.

Please check out WPSP and help out!

Interview: Full Circle Home

Hey there, as promised, I’m following up with the final interview I conducted with Vickie Durfee, Executive Director and Lisa Miller, Partner of Full Circle Home. Full Circle Home won a Bonus Challenge during the CrowdRise Veterans Charity Challenge that raised over $448,000. Full Circle Home’s doing some really good work. Through donations and corporate partnerships, Full Circle Home has arranged for gift boxes to be sent on behalf of service members to the home front, since 2007.

Vickie spoke about supporting both the troops and their families at home. Hand-written loves notes, boxes, and gifts are sent to any woman at home who is a source of support; sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives. “It’s a way for the community to say thank you both to the women and to those who are deployed…We sent out 150 boxes in the first month of the idea.”

You can listen to the full interview here:

After the interview, Vickie wrote to tell me a little more about Full Circle Home:

We have been able to make great headway with determination and the expectancy of reaching our goals. Our story is really the story of our troops and their heroes at home! There is SO much need, but without those protecting our freedoms, we might not have the luxury to worry about the rest.

We continue to grow and will take on new challenges as they line up with our mission. The addition of FCH’s Wounded Warriors Project is one such program. I’ve included a photo, one of the few we actually been able to take at Walter Reed. This soldier was a delight, and I think he felt empowered that he could do something special for his mom.



Interview: Swords to Plowshares

Hey there, as many of you know, I gave $50k to the CrowdRise Veterans Charity Challenge earlier this month. The total money raised for Veterans and Milfams exceeded $448,000.



In my #VetsChallenge wrap up post, I asked you to stay tuned for the interviews I’d be conducting with two great orgs, both winners of a Bonus Challenge.

The first interview was with Jordan Towers, Social Media Coordinator for Swords to Plowshares. Jordan talked about how the org has provided core services, like housing, employment, and training to vets since 1974.

Some of the things that Jordan said during the interview really stuck out to me,

“The amazing thing about Swords to Plowshares is that we help all veterans of every generation…[We help] about 2,000 veterans in the San Francisco Bay area every year….[and] really try to tackle what the veterans need, and to restore their dignity and self-sufficiency. All veterans are welcome, regardless of discharge status.”



You can listen to the full interview here:

Trustworthy journalism in a fact-checking-free world

Getting real about trustworthy journalism

Okay, I really just want news I can trust.

Couple years ago, I blurted out that “the press should be the immune system of democracy.”

Personally, I really don’t like being lied to, but my deal here is that our social contract with the news business is that they hold the powerful to account.

In return, we buy the products of news outlets, and give news professionals certain protections, like the US First Amendment and shield laws.

That gives the press a lot of power, which means that the news industry itself needs to be accountable. That’s a lot easier said than done, and it’s only getting harder to do.

However, if a journalist or news outlet isn’t trustworthy, is it worth buying? Is it good for the country?

Well, I’m not in the news business, I’m an outsider, but over years I’ve spent a lot of time with people in the business, and I’ve gotten glimpses as to how the sausage is made. That means I gotta respect boundaries, and not tell people how to do their job.

That job gets more and more challenging, and even good news orgs can have lapses. I’m good with that, if they fix those lapses and hold themselves otherwise accountable, in good faith. Sure, there’re legal consequences, but the bottom line is driven by trustworthy actions.

The solution involves:

Turns out that what we have now are a lot of ethics codes and policies, but very little accountability.

To make sense of this, here’s the kind of lapse I’m talking about, none of which seems to have been addressed.

1. NBC selectively edited a video and badly misrepresented a guy in a real ugly case. Not clear if they’ve come clean about it yet.

Suggestion: news outlets should make the full recording available, perhaps via a discreet rapid-response accountability team.

2. Sometimes a news outlet might broadcast a public figure lying, even when they know it’s a lie. This is what Jon Stewart calls the “CNN leaves it there” problem.

Suggestion: Reporters are smart, if they know they’re being lied to, don’t broadcast it. If they smell a lie but not sure, do a good faith fact-check.

3. Sometimes a news outlet does fact-checking and “forgets” to follow through. This has happened to me, but more importantly, happened to Jimmy Wales very recently, in the NY Times:

“It is very odd and filled with a lot of basic factual errors. For example, it says that Wikipedia was run out of a strip mall at one point – that’s just completely false and a very weird thing to have said, particularly since I explained to the fact checker that it was wrong!”

Suggestion: do fact-checking, and then, correct any falsehoods.

4. Sometimes multiple news outlets will report first, without fact-checking, doing a lot of damage. This was particularly true in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack.

Suggestion: confirm facts before publication.

5. Sometimes, news outlets don’t do their research, get a story badly wrong, and really hurts the country. This is very true regarding the recent IRS scandal, the real story is more about Congressional failure and that the IRS isn’t targeting enough possibly bogus charities.

Suggestion: use actual fact-checked research. Using other news reports as sources is not reliable. Reporting should be transparent about the political motivations of the people pushing the story. Specifically, journalists need to make sure they spend as much “good faith” time in exploring agendas as they do in seeking sources and exploring “the facts” they are made privy to.If so, the story would be perceived differently, perhaps accurately.

The news business is under considerable pressure, competing for a shrinking audience, often having to come up with many new stories per day. Sometimes the facts just can’t be checked, which is a big reason I keep talking about “good faith.”

My personal bias is that the news industry should create their own accountability tools. I don’t think they’ll be perfect, just looking for good faith action.

However, right now people are stirring the pot, constructively, suggesting that the government intervene.

Specifically, people are suggesting that “journalists” should have US First Amendment and shield law protections. Non-professionals, specifically “bloggers,” might be denied those protections.

I think that way of doing it is wrong, and that the issue isn’t “journalist vs. blogger” but whether or not the reporter and news outlet are accountable. Here, “accountable” means “acting in good faith to be trustworthy” which means having an ethics code and honestly trying hard to follow that code.

Does a journalist or news outlet without accountability have legal protections?

You can find a great summary by Mathew Ingram, which incorporates a lot of good work from Jillian York, Jeff Jarvis, David Weinberger, and others.

However, any news outlet that wants to succeed must be trustworthy, that is, accountable. I feel that’s required for their survival, and for national survival.

Perhaps people in news can suggest how they can get to actual accountability?

What Inspires Me: Leonard Cohen


Customer service can really be corrosive, and it gets worse than the usual trolling and abuse. However, singer and poet Leonard Cohen really helps me get through the day, with a small but substantial assist from Dr Stephen T Colbert DFA (Doctor of Fine Arts).

Shit rolls downhill. That’s the life of a customer service rep, and I’ve had that pleasure for over eighteen years. (I continue to do customer service, one reason being to remind me about this.)

However, if you survive the first year or so, you can cope with trolling and verbal abuse since you can see that the vast majority of people are pretty reasonable. There are very few trolls or other bad actors. Unfortunately, the really bad actors get really good at telling a good story for their own profit or power. That means they appeal to the goodness of most people, and misinform them to give you a hard time.

haters gonna hate

Dealing with that gets old really fast, and often a customer service rep must absorb that criticism and wait, maybe years, for others to address it. Meanwhile, when this is happening, you need a hand just to get through the day.

My deal is that there’s this guy, Leonard Cohen, who’s been a real influential poet and singer for maybe fifty years. He’s my rabbi, in the sense that a rabbi’s a teacher and spiritual leader.

His music is pretty much my liturgy, prayer really, and it inspires me in a way to get through the day.

In context, my favorite Sunday School teacher, Dr Colbert, reminds us that “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”

I feel that joy in such prayer, that really helps out, and here’s what’s most effective from Leonard.

I can’t run no more

With that lawless crowd,

Not while the killers

In high places

Say their prayers aloud.

But they’ve summoned

They’ve summoned

A big


They’re going to hear from me.




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