OPM drops time limit to boost military spouse hiring

Husbands and wives of service members disabled or killed in the line of duty soon will have indefinite noncompetitive eligibility for government jobs.

In a final rule to be published in Wednesday's Federal Register, the Office of Personnel Management will eliminate a two-year limit on a special hiring authority for the spouses of disabled or deceased military personnel. The new regulation will provide indefinite eligibility for spouses who are not prepared to enter the workforce within that period because they are still grieving, they are enrolled in school or training programs, or they are caring for children or their disabled spouse.

OPM in 2009 implemented a rule to allow agencies to hire the husbands or wives of members of the armed forces without comparing them to other candidates if the service member is transferred to a new location permanently, becomes completely disabled during active duty (though the injuries do not have to result from combat), or dies during an active-duty assignment.

Husbands or wives whose eligibility is based on relocation orders still would have to comply with the original two-year time frame. Findings from the Integrated Process Team for Spouse Employment and Empowerment organized by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff showed that spouses of deceased or disabled service members were not using the hiring authority, while those affected by relocation had no problem with the two-year requirement.

"All other noncompetitive hiring authorities have a time limitation for appointment eligibility," OPM wrote. "Elimination of the two-year window for [permanent change of station] military spouses would create an inconsistency between this group and other individuals eligible for noncompetitive entry into federal service."

The rule will take effect in 30 days.

Katie Savant, government relations deputy director at the National Military Family Association, said the organization is pleased with the indefinite extension of noncompetitive eligibility for surviving spouses. Agencies also could use additional clarification on the application of the hiring authority, she said.

The Obama administration is taking steps to increase the hiring of military spouses in government and the private sector. Officials in June launched the Military Spouse Employment Partnership to direct husbands and wives of service members from all military branches to long-term career opportunities. The program aims to match the skills of military spouses who want to work with the needs of businesses nationwide.

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