The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Announces the 4+1 Commitment to Reduce the Military Spouse Unemployment Rate

UPDATED: April 24, 2024
PUBLISHED: April 27, 2024
Military spouses holding hands exemplifying a 4 + 1 commitment

Military life is full of sacrifices, both for the member who serves and the family that stands beside them. For some military families, those sacrifices include access to a fulfilling, well-paid career. Others have to pause their career ambitions altogether. Multiple factors contribute to issues with military spouse unemployment, from potentially moving every few years or sooner to more of the family responsibilities falling on the military spouse during a deployment.

This is why the unemployment rate for military spouses has been sitting at a shockingly high 21%, according to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), down only slightly from 24% in 2017. By comparison, the unemployment rate in the U.S. as of February 2024 was just 3.9%. 

“It’s not OK,” says twin mom and military spouse Monica Fullerton, a corporate businesswoman who turned entrepreneur out of her own “pure inspiration and frustration.” She’s the founder and CEO of Spouse-ly, an online marketplace featuring products and services created by military and first responder families.

Now, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the White House are committing to improve the careers of military spouses by adopting the “4+1 Commitment,” which businesses can also pledge to.

What is the 4+1 commitment?

On March 6, the VA released news that they are making “historic commitments to hire and support military spouses,” piggybacking off the recent Biden-Harris administration report promoting the same value. According to the press release, the 4+1 Commitment is a partnership between the government and private employers, developed by Blue Star Families, Hiring Our Heroes and the DOD. 

First lady Jill Biden, Ph.D., is behind the voluntary commitment by employers to adopt at least one of the following policies, with the hopes of expanding employment and career opportunities for military spouses:

  • Facilitate job transferability
  • Offer remote options or “telework”
  • Offer flexible work hours
  • Provide paid or permissive permanent change of station (PCS) leave

Then, there’s the “+1,” which means employers can consider joining existing government spouse employment groups, explains.

Whole Life Coaching offer

The potential impact of the 4+1 commitment

Multiple well-known businesses have signed the 4+1 commitment including Starbucks, an original supporter of transferability for military families employed there. explains that the commitment helps because 69% of active-duty spousal respondents in their research want to work remotely if offered the opportunity in their field in a position aligned with their education and experience. In addition, 1 in 3 active-duty  spousal respondents said their service member’s daily work schedule is too unpredictable, making inflexibility a top barrier to employment. Other companies such as Comcast, NextDoor and Johnson & Johnson are original signatories.

Turning commitments to action

Fullerton says progress on the unemployment rate for military spouses needs to start with understanding military life but not letting that limit what spouses are capable of.

“With this new commitment by the VA, these are all steps in the right direction, but actions speak louder than words,” she adds. “In my own personal experience, I have not seen enough support on the VA side of things, but I do really hope that these new commitments are only going to strengthen their current efforts.”

For example, she says that sometimes companies make assumptions, such as thinking all military spouses want to work from home, which isn’t the case. She also has seen companies promoting that they hire military spouses, though those companies are often not really hiring positions that align with an applicant’s education and experience or professional growth path. 

“Oftentimes, there are only entry-level positions available, which is totally OK, but not all military spouses are looking for entry-level positions,” Fullerton adds. “This can become extremely discouraging from the military-spouse perspective because it can provide false hope when companies assume all military spouses are the same.”

Additional support resources for military families 

In addition to the 4+1 commitment, here’s what other companies are doing to support military families:

Military Friendly

This organization rates jobs for military friendliness, with a specific focus on military spouses. It lists top companies across the nation that support military spouses and provide positions that would work for them. Military Friendly bases its ratings on six key components including recruiting and sourcing, policies, support and retention, culture, opportunities for advancement and the hiring and onboarding process.

Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP)

The Defense Department has developed the Military Spouse Employment Partnership in collaboration with 700 different businesses to provide a job board specifically for military spouses. Companies listed on their website include 3M, ADP, CVS Health, Amazon and Kohl’s, among others. Additionally, the Defense Department provides free career coaching for military spouses looking to enter or reenter the workforce.


Adecco is a recruitment company with its own Military Alliance for veterans and military spouses. With agency locations spanning the country, it also provides career education courses for those looking to build their skill set.


Boldly is an executive assistant company in New York that actively hires and supports military spouse team members. Fifty percent of its leadership team are military spouses.


Deloitte, a professional services network, has a Military Spouse Initiative (MSI) to support military spouses through mentorship, professional development, recruiting and talent. This community is run by military spouses and is a volunteer-based sector of the company.

Employers who want to take the 4+1 Commitment pledge can do so here.

Photo by Sara Nicole Garavuso/