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DoD dropped the ball on military spouses’ tuition

Post by Cheryl Tucker on March 31, 2010 at 7:28 pm with No Comments »
March 31, 2010 5:31 pm

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Military spouses trying to take college or trade school classes often face hurdles many other students don’t face – like moving around a lot and dealing with the stresses of a loved one’s deployment.

But for the last year, they’ve had one good thing going for them: the Defense Department’s Military Spouse Career Advancement Account program (MyCAA). Since March 2009, the program has provided up to $6,000 in tuition assistance to any of the 1.3 million spouses of active-duty military or reservists called to active duty.

For spouses of lower-ranking military members, that money’s been more than helpful; it’s been critical to getting the education or skills needed for careers that are as mobile as they are. But in February, the military abruptly pulled the plug on the program – because it was proving too popular.

The program had 98,000 military spouses receiving assistance and 38,000 more who had been accepted. Without any warning, the Department of Defense stopped accepting new applicants and cut off payments to spouses already enrolled. Although funding is now going out again, the program isn’t accepting new participants. The military says it’s reviewing the program’s long-term plans.

The way the MyCAA funding cutoff was handled was unnecessarily clumsy and stressful. Some enrollees heard about it by word of mouth or on social networking Web sites. Others logged into their MyCAA accounts only to find that their tuition money was no longer there. For some, that meant scrambling to find another way to pay tuition or even dropping out.

As Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wa., put it: “How they (the military) handled this is infuriating. This is crazy.”
Military spouses have to put up with a lot, and they generally accept those challenges with courage and grace. For those married to deployed service personnel, taking classes toward a degree or trade – and becoming more employable – can be a constructive way to spend their time.

The military has done a good job in recent years of becoming more family friendly. Getting this tuition-assistance program running smoothly – and even expanding it – is a good way to help those who make it easier for military men and women to serve.

In the long run, helping military spouses get better educated and more employable will be an economic boost for military families and the communities where they live.

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