DOD halts funds for spouse tuition
BAMBERG, Germany — The popularity of a spouse tuition-assistance program started just a year ago has led to its demise, at least temporarily, according a Defense Department announcement.
The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program (MyCAA) was launched in March 2009, and provided eligible spouses with up to $6,000 to pay for such things as education, training, licenses and certificates leading to careers that can survive the frequent moves most military families make, according to the program’s Web site.
But last month, Military One Source, which runs MyCAA, announced a "temporary pause" in the program.
"The pause announced last week resulted from an unforeseen, unprecedented spike in enrollments," reads a DOD message posted on the Web site. "These applications were overwhelming the system intended to support the program and almost reached the budget threshold."
The MyCAA suspension left some participating students unable to access their accounts.
"One day I went to sign in on my account and there was nothing there, it was frozen," said Jennifer Hemm, a student with University of Maryland University College in Europe. "The program was very beneficial — this is upsetting."
Nearly 133,000 spouses, who must be married to active-duty, reserve or National Guard servicemembers, have enrolled in the program, according to the American Forces Press Service. Currently, 98,000 have been approved for tuition assistance.
There is no timetable for the accounts to be reinstated, Military One Source said Friday. A message on the MyCAA Web site said the program will honor those who have already been approved for financial assistance.
Now, some spouses are banding together to demand answers. They have started a Facebook group called Take Action Against MyCaa Shutdown. It already has more than 2,000 members.
"I am now being forced to drop out due to the extremely short notice of a halt in the funding," a military spouse who identified herself as Desiree Shazam wrote on the page. "Now I will be unemployed and not able to continue my education. This is devastating not only to me but every spouse who DoD has slapped in the face with this halt."
Ingrid Ramos, a military spouse who works at the education center for U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach says she will be forced to take out student loans if the program is not restarted.
"They halted the program without warning and people want to know why," said Ramos, who is taking classes through UMUC-Europe. "I called a counselor. There is no time line [for restarting the program]. She told me to call back in April."
"They started something — they need to finish it," she said.
Members of the Congressional Military Family Caucus have gotten involved in the issue.
Last week, 65 caucus members sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking that the program be restored as quickly as possible, according to a posting on the Web site of Rep. Glenn Nye, D-Va.
"With 133,000 military spouses participating in this program, we are concerned with the practical impact of this ‘pause,’ " read the letter to Gates. "Halting this program without notice is not the way to support those who sacrifice so much to make our military what it is today."
As the MyCAA program is under review, officials said spouses should explore other government options for financial assistance, such as the transfer of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other programs available on installation and program Web sites, according to the American Forces Press Service release.