Gerald Kowalski hugs his wife Lisa as he returns home.

Gerald Kowalski hugs his wife Lisa as he returns home. Thao Nguyen/AP

Another 34 companies pledge to hire more military spouses

Push to provide career-track employment doesn’t apply to same-sex partners.

More private sector companies have pledged to hire military spouses through a year-old government program.

The Defense Department’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership will add 34 private sector companies to the 96 current employment partners that have pledged to hire more military spouses.

The partnership began in June 2011 as part of Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s military family service initiative Joining Forces, and 22,000 military spouses have been hired at participating companies since the partnership began, according to a press release.

In a conference call Thursday, Rob Gordon, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for military community and family policy, said the additional companies will be looking to hire for positions that “are quite career-focused” and they will have personnel dedicated to making sure spouses will be hired and reported.

“We see day in and day out an expanded number of companies that are specifically looking to hire spouses and veterans,” Brad Cooper, executive director of Joining Forces, said during the conference call. “Now it’s just a more deliberate, focused effort.”

Cooper said, “a really small portion” of the companies joining the pledge are in the defense domain. According to the descriptions of the companies provided in the press release, 10 of the 34 companies either base their business around service to military and military families (such as military health care provider Triwest) or are comprised primarily of spouses or veterans (such as The Major Group).

Applicants with a military spouse identification card are eligible to participate in the partnership by checking a box on the application indicating their status. Same-sex domestic partners of military personnel, because they are not recognized as military spouses by the federal government, are not eligible for the partnership.

“As far as the military is concerned anything issued by the military to spouses does not apply to you,” said Jonathan Hopkins, director of Washington operations for LGBT military network OutServe.

Gordon said during the conference call the program was intended for “spouses who are ID cardholders.”

The response to the partnership expansion was positive elsewhere in the military community. “Any attention that we can get on the issue of military spouse employment is a good thing,” said AnnaMaria White, spokeswoman for military family-focused nonprofit Blue Star Families. She praised the partnership’s efforts to reach out to a range of experience levels.