Spouse career education program revamps, will relaunch in October

| September 17, 2010 | 0 Comments

Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program will resume Oct. 25, but with some significant changes to the popular spouse employment program, a defense official announced recently.

Changes include a reduction in the amount of financial aid, a change in the population eligible to receive that aid and more robust counseling services. 

These changes bring the program, commonly known as MyCAA, back to its original intent of equipping military spouses of junior service members with portable careers, such as in real estate or health care, said Clifford Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The program was launched in November 2007 for spouses of junior service members, and was expanded to all pay grades and programs of study in March 2009.

Officials temporarily halted the program Feb. 16, pending a top-to-bottom review, after an enrollment surge overwhelmed the system and caused the program to nearly reach its budget threshold. 

In March, with the review still under way, officials resumed the program for the more than 136,000 spouses who already had established an account. The review took time, but officials wanted to ensure they could sustain the program long-term, particularly in light of fiscal realities the government is facing, Stanley said.

The previous program offered all spouses of active duty service members a lifetime benefit of $6,000 to be used for education purposes. Under the new parameters, spouses of junior service members can apply for a maximum financial benefit of $4,000, for up to three years from the start of the first class, with a $2,000 annual cap, Stanley explained. 

Spouses pursuing licenses or certifications requiring an up-front fee of more than $2,000 may apply for a waiver of the annual cap, up to the maximum benefit of $4,000, he added.

Financial aid will be limited to spouses of active-duty service members from privates to sergeants, warrant officers one to chief warrant officers two, and second lieutenants to first lieutenants, Stanley said, as well as the spouses of activated National Guardsmen and reservists within those ranks. 

Spouses eligible to receive aid can use the money to fund associate degrees, licenses and certification programs, but not higher degrees. The program wasn’t intended to support bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Stanley said. 

However, spouses pursuing higher degrees can explore a plethora of other education opportunities, such as scholarships, federal grants and the G.I. Bill, with help from Military OneSource consultants.

Spouses currently enrolled in the program can continue their participation through Oct. 21, when MyCAA will ramp down and prepare for the Oct. 25 launch. As of Oct. 25, those spouses who fall within the eligible pay grades can continue their program participation. Spouses who are no longer eligible for MyCAA financial aid can still access career and education counseling services, Stanley said.

To ensure the vitality of the program, Military OneSource counselors will encourage spouses to explore other funding resources, including federal benefits. 

The program became wildly popular before, mainly through word of mouth, Stanley said. People heard about the program and immediately recognized it was a good deal.

“It’s still a good deal,” he said. “We always tend to look at the glass as half empty. We are doing the best we can with what we have. I wish we had a lot more money, but we don’t; but this glass is still half full.”

 “I am excited that the program came back for our military spouses,” wrote Yolanda Johnson, Employer Readiness Program manager, Army Community Service, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, in an e-mail. “I think it will enable a large number of military spouses who would not have the funding to continue their education.”

Johnson suggested that interested spouses living in the Pacific region start researching schools now, and enroll in the program as soon as possible.

 

Spouses can learn more about Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts at www.MilitaryOneSource.com.

 

Category: Army News Service, Community

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