Order Code RS22440
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Unemployment Compensation (Insurance)
and Military Service
Julie M. Whittaker
Analyst in Applied Microeconomics
Domestic Social Policy Division
The Unemployment Compensation (UC) program contains several provisions
relevant to current and former military service personnel and their families. The UC
program does not provide benefits for military servicemembers on active duty.
However, former active duty military personnel (and certain reservists) separated from
active duty may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers
(UCX). Spouses of military service personnel who voluntarily quit a job to accompany
their spouses on account of a military transfer may be eligible for UC benefits, based on
the laws of the state where the civilian spouse was employed. Military service of
business owners, employees, or employees’ spouses may impact the state unemployment
tax rate that certain employers face. States may choose to create provisions that remove
or limit these tax increases in certain situations. This report will be updated as events
Unemployment Compensation Benefit Eligibility
for Former Military Personnel
Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX)1 provides income
support while former active duty military personnel or reservists2 released from active
duty search for work. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 1991 (P.L.
102-164) provides that ex-servicemembers be treated the same as other unemployed
workers with respect to benefit levels, the waiting period for benefits and benefit
Established by the Ex-servicemen’s Unemployment Act of 1958 (P.L. 85-848, 5 U.S.C .§ §
8521-8525) in 1958.
In this report, the terms reserves or reservists include the Army and Air National Guard and
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
duration.3 Military personnel on active duty do not qualify for Unemployment
Compensation (UC)4 or UCX benefits.
UCX Eligibility and Benefit Level. Ex-servicemembers apply for UCX benefits
in the state where they are searching for employment. UC eligibility criteria and benefits
vary by state. The ex-servicemembers must meet the same criteria that civilian workers
are required to meet for their UC benefit eligibility. Thus, two ex-servicemembers with
the same earnings and work history may qualify for different amounts of benefits if they
file for UCX in different states. The equivalent military measurement of wages and time
in service are used to determine eligibility and benefit levels.5
If the ex-servicemember was originally in the active duty military, he or she must
have left military service under honorable conditions and either completed a full term of
service or have been released early under a qualifying reason. If the ex-servicemember
was a reservist formerly on active duty, he or she must have been on active duty for at
least 90 continuous days. UCX benefits are not payable during periods in which the
ex-servicemember is eligible to receive certain allowances or educational assistance
allowances from the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program or the
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Program.
Participation in the Montgomery GI bill does not preclude receipt of UCX benefits;
however, having student status does limit UC benefit eligibility in most states and these
limitations would extend to those workers receiving UCX benefits. Many states exclude
workers while they attend school and some states include vacation periods in that
Self-employed and Sole Proprietor Ex-Servicemembers. When an exservicemember was previously self-employed or was a sole-proprietor, the worker would
have been excluded from receiving UC benefits. After active duty, if the exservicemember is unemployed, the ex-servicemember would quality for UCX benefits
Previously, in 1982, Congress had placed restrictions on benefits for ex-servicemembers (P.L.
97-362). In addition to a number of restrictive eligibility requirements, ex-servicemembers were
required to wait four weeks from the date of their separation from the service before they could
receive benefits. The maximum number of weeks of benefits an ex-servicemember could receive
based on employment in the military was 13 (as compared with 26 weeks under the regular UC
program for civilian workers).
In law, this program is called the Unemployment Compensation program. However, it is
commonly referred to as the Unemployment Insurance program, reflecting its social insurance
design. See CRS Report RL33362, Unemployment Insurance: Available Benefits and Legislative
Activity, by Julie M. Whittaker, for information on the UC program.
The state in which the former servicemember files for a claim determines the UCX benefit level
and duration. The weekly and maximum amounts of UCX payable to an individual under the
UCX program are determined under the applicable state laws. The UCX benefit is required to
be the same amount, on the same terms, and subject to the same conditions as the state UC which
would be payable to the individual under the applicable state law. The individual’s federal
military service and federal military wages are assigned or transferred as employment and wages
covered by that state law, subject to the use of the applicable Schedule of Remuneration. That
is, for claims purposes, military wages are determined by the pay grade at separation from
military service. A wage table is provided by the federal government and then is equated to
civilian wages for each military pay grade.
based on military service. However, most states require that the worker be searching for
employment and would not cover a worker who was reestablishing self-employment or
a small business.
UCX Financing. The UCX benefit is funded by the federal government through
its federal account in the Unemployment Trust Fund6 (UTF). Each state is reimbursed by
the federal government for each unemployed worker whose base period wages included
federal military wages.
Civilian Spouses Who Quit Employment on
Account of Military Spouse Transfers
Civilian spouses who quit their employment because their military spouse was
transferred generally will not qualify for UC benefits. Most state UC programs do not
award UC benefits to workers who quit their jobs because a spouse was transferred,
deeming this as a “voluntary quit.” The laws of several states — Colorado, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Virginia — include a specific disqualification for
claimants who quit work to relocate with a spouse.
In several states, the disqualification following a “voluntary quit” continues until the
claimant returns to work, completes a specified duration of work, and earns wages of a
specified amount. In other states, the disqualification is time-limited. These states
penalize the worker for quitting, but recognize that economic conditions may be such that
even a person who diligently seeks work may find none. The reasoning is that beyond a
certain point, if a diligent job seeker is still unemployed, such continuing unemployment
is attributable to labor market conditions, rather than their decision to quit. Thus, spouses
relocating to areas of high unemployment or limited opportunities may become eligible
for benefits, even if initially disqualified. For example, in Texas, the disqualification is
generally limited to 6 weeks, and, in West Virginia, they must find work in insured
employment for 30 days and then become involuntarily unemployed, at which time the
disqualification will be lifted.
Transferred Spouse Exception (Unconditional on Military Service). Ten
states allow workers who quit because of their spouse’s job transfer to receive UC
benefits. In column (a), Table 1 lists these states.
Military Spouse Exception. In addition to the 10 states allowing UC benefits
if a worker quits to accompany a spouse ’s transfer, 8 states have special exceptions for
workers who quit to join their transferred military spouse. These exceptions are shown
in column (b) of Table 1. Thus, a total of 18 states allow the civilian spouse of a
transferred military servicemember to receive UC benefits.
See CRS Report RS22077, Unemployment Compensation (UC) and the Unemployment Trust
Fund (UTF): Funding UC Benefits, by Christine Scott and Julie M. Whittaker, for an explanation
of how funds are transferred.
Table 1. Unemployment Compensation Benefit Eligibility for
Workers Who Voluntarily Quit on Account of a Spousal Transfer
Source: CRS compilation from Comparison of State Unemployment Insurance Laws, 2005, U.S.
Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Workforce Security.
Impact of Miliary Service on Employers’
State Unemployment Taxes
State unemployment taxes are levied on employers based on a combination of
established rates and the employer’s past history of its workers using the UC system.
Generally, employers that have a greater history of unemployed workers would have a
worse experience rating and would pay higher UC taxes. Military service of business
owners, employees, or employees’ spouses may impact the tax rate that certain employers
A business owner, if called up for active military service, may need to
layoff some or all of the business’s workers. Once the business owner
returns from military service, the revival of the business may mean that
the small business may face a new, higher state unemployment tax rate.
If the servicemember serves for less than two years, some of the worker’s
UCX benefit may be based on nonmilitary work. (These workers receive
a hybrid UC/UCX benefit.) Their former (civilian) employers may face
a state unemployment tax increase as a result.
Workers who quit their jobs and move to accompany their military
spouse may receive UC benefits in 18 states. Their employers may face
an increased state unemployment tax because of these workers.
States may choose to create provisions that remove or limit these tax increases in
certain situations. For example:
In Illinois, business owners — who are called to active duty from the
reserve and had to close their firms — are not charged for the increases
in unemployment compensation benefits for the workers who lose their
jobs. When the business owner returns and reopens his or her business,
the business’s state unemployment tax rate is not increased.
In Texas and Maine, if an employee was called to active military service,
— but then qualifies for UC benefits — the employer does not face a
higher state unemployment tax rate. This is even if a portion of the
UC/UCX benefit is based on the former employee’s earnings at the
previous employer .
Nebraska and Georgia do not change employers’ experience ratings for
UC benefits granted to those workers who quit their jobs on account of
a military spouse being transferred.