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Sen. Barnes to meet with U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta regarding military spouse benefits

February 14, 2012



CLARKSVILLE – State Senator Tim Barnes will travel to the Pentagon on Wednesday at the invitation of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for his work in securing unemployment benefits for military spouses.

“It’s an incredible honor to represent Tennessee in an event with Secretary Panetta supporting military spouses,” Barnes said. “The greater honor, however, is serving the military families that this legislation will help, and I’m humbled to have the opportunity.”

First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin will also be in attendance at Wednesday’s 2 p.m. CT announcement. According to the Department of Defense, the First Lady and Secretary Panetta will be announcing a military spouse employment report designed to help military spouses with occupational licenses.

According to the Department of Defense, Tennessee is one of 11 states that already support portability for military spouses with occupational licenses like those required for teachers, nurses and other medical fields. With the passage of unemployment benefits for military spouses, Tennessee would become just the fourth state in the nation to attain all of the Department's desired outcomes regarding military spouses.

Barnes, State Representative Joe Pitts of Clarksville and other lawmakers have worked for years on the legislation (SB884/HB984), which provides benefits for those who have to leave their jobs due to their spouses’ military orders. For the first time, funding for the bill is included in the governor's proposed budget.
 
Tennessee is one of only 11 states that do not currently provide unemployment benefits for military spouses forced to leave their jobs due to a military transfer. Tennessee would likely see about 73 unemployment claims from military spouses each year, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, resulting in an estimated cost of $278,800.

The legislation passed unanimously through the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, meaning the bill will go to the Senate floor. The House version of the bill is scheduled for a hearing this month in the Consumer and Employee Affairs Subcommittee.