WASHINGTON — After a WUSA9 investigation, the military finally started reimbursing spouses for some of the job-finding costs that come along with frequent moves. Now, Congress wants to double the benefit.
Amse Heck loved her job as a realtor in the suburbs of Philly. She had to give it up, though, when the Air Force Reserves moved her husband and their family to Northern Virginia. The costs of restarting her career were just too much.
“Besides paying for the classes, for the test, and then for my license, I’d also have to join a brokerage and pay for my marketing materials, my errors and omissions insurance -- by the time John and I looked at it, it was several thousand dollars,” Heck recalled.
Now, Congress is looking to reimburse more of those costs -- up to $1000. That's double what the branches were supposed to be giving.
This new development follows a WUSA9 investigation. We discovered a year and a half after the program was authorized, the military hadn't reimbursed one dollar.
We had to contact every branch multiple times. Our investigation confirmed not one had put the program in place. We kept on them. In the two months after our story aired, every branch announced how spouses can get back up to $500. The program would run through 2022.
“In large part due to the attention that you've brought to this issue, all of the services now have implemented the regulations, so that's a good thing,” Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, explained.
Now, Brown thinks they need to go even further. An amendment he sponsored is included in the House version of the defense spending bill. It doubles the reimbursement to $1000. It also extends the program for another two years. Brown said that's a way to make up for the delay our investigation uncovered.
“There's a good chance that service members don't even know about the program,” he believes. “So, if we're going to look at the program and its utility, its value, its effectiveness, you need a good period of time. So, if we had stayed with the original expiration date, we wouldn't have sufficient time to see 'hey does this really make a difference.’”
Families like the Hecks already know the answer to that question. Amse moved from realty to a new career. She is the DC Chapter Director for Blue Star Families. She hopes other military spouses will benefit from these changes.
“I think that would have made a big difference,” she added. “We would have found a way if that program had existed back then.”
So how quickly will military families see the money because of this act?
The House and Senate still need to hash out differences and decide if they'll include this in the final bill. Brown hopes lawmakers can get the full defense spending bill to the President by the end of September.