Military spouses looking to boost their career prospects through education or a workforce credential now have better access to scholarship opportunities.
The My Career Advancement Account Scholarship, or MyCAA, has traditionally been available to spouses of junior enlisted service members looking to advance their training in portable career fields. And now, more fields than ever will qualify.
“What we heard from military spouses … is that jobs work differently today,” said Lee Kelley, director for military community support programs at the Defense Department. “Careers that maybe didn’t used to be portable, now they have the ability to move from duty station to duty station.”
The update stems from the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that called for changes to MyCAA, a program under the Military OneSource Spouse Education and Career Opportunities division (SECO) providing a host of free resources for all military spouses.
MyCAA offers $4,000 scholarships for spouses to pursue an associate degree, license or certification if their service members are in the E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2 and O-1 to O-2 pay grades. (Members of the National Guard and reserves must be on Title 10 orders for their spouses to qualify.)
Health and human services, business finance and administration, animal services, education, and information technology are traditionally the top programs spouses pursue with these funds, Kelley said.
Previously, if a career field did not meet the MyCAA definition of “portable,” a spouse could seek a waiver, and these were often approved if there was a compelling case, Kelley said. The recent changes eliminate the need for waivers, however, though education and training programs still need to get approved by a MyCAA coach.
“It’s putting the power in the hands of the spouse,” she said.
Another recent change to MyCAA allows spouses to finish their education plans even if their spouse gets promoted out of the qualifying ranks.
The NDAA also called for Coast Guard spouses to get MyCAA access, but the Department of Homeland Security and DOD have not yet worked out a funding agreement, Kelley said.
Another education benefit available to military families is the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Service members can use it while on active duty, provided they have served at least 90 days — or transfer it to their dependents while still in uniform.
The top three fields beneficiaries pursue are business, management and information technology, said Charmain Bogue, executive director of education service for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers the cost of in-state tuition at public institutions and, currently, up to $24,476.79 at private institutions for service members who qualify for the full education benefit, meaning they have served at least 36 months on active duty, with some exceptions.
The benefit also comes with a housing stipend for users not receiving a basic housing allowance from DOD.
These housing stipends were briefly in question earlier this year, as the coronavirus pandemic saw many schools switching to virtual instruction. Ordinarily, online-only students receive a housing stipend equal to the national average that can be much lower for students attending in-person classes, depending on the area. Yet Congress has passed a law that will offer students the same rates they would have received for traditional brick-and-mortar programs, even as schools move online.
“It does bring up a larger conversation about online vs in residence, right?” Bogue said. “This has been a topic of interest for a long time now but COVID-19 has really highlighted the concerns and the difference between a student who decides to go online versus someone who decides to go to a brick and mortar. The workload is still the same, they’re just taking it in a different form or a different avenue.”
Students will also continue to be paid for a time if their schools close, even temporarily. Bogue said the VA will be checking in with schools mid-fall to see if these exceptions need to continue into next spring.
Visit https://benefits.va.gov/gibill/ to learn about eligibility and transfer options.Read comments