In many ways, military spouses are no different from spouses in the civilian world. They want to:
- improve their family’s quality of life
- have a rewarding career
- open up job opportunities through education.
But, when searching for funding sources, many overlook several of the sources available to them and the order of use of the ones they do find. For many spouses, the three-pronged approach will maximize their funding opportunities.
The MyCAA Program
For a spouse of a low-ranking servicemember, this can be their first source of funding. Last fall, the Department of Defense announced the new rules of the MyCAA Program. A spouse new to the program will now be limited to a two-year or less training program resulting in the awarding of:
- an associate’s degree or,
- a certification or,
- a license.
Under the new rules, only military spouses of active duty, or Title 10 Selected Reserve servicemembers, in the lower enlisted, warrant and officer grades may participate in the program. Specifically, the authorized grades are:
- E1 through E5;
- W1 and W2;
- O1 and O2.
Because the serving member has to be in one of the lower grades (and most likely does not meet the service requirement for the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option yet anyway), this is a good first prong of funding for many spouses.
Each spouse in the program can receive up to $2,000 per year, with a $4,000 funding cap, and have up to three years to complete their chosen training program. Many finish in two years or less.
Post 9/11 GI Bill Transferred Benefits
After completing the MyCAA Program, many spouses go on to use their Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits as a second-pronged funding source. Having earned an associate’s degree under the MyCAA program, the next logical step can be working on the next two years of a four-year degree. If the spouse earned a license or certification instead of an associate’s degree, then working toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is a logical next step.
Once the active duty serving member has served for at least six years (of which at least three years had to be after September 10, 2001) and agrees to serve for an additional four years, then s/he can submit a request to transfer any or all unused Post 9/11 GI Bill entitlement to his/her spouse.
For the Reservist or National Guard member to qualify for the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option, the requirement to serve at least six years in the Armed Forces of the United States (of which active duty, the National Guard and Reserve are all part of) and agree to serve an additional four years still exists. However, the Selected Reserve member must also have served for at least 90-days after September 10, 2001 on a Title 10 order in support of a contingency operation, (such as Iraq or Afghanistan among others) to complete the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option eligibility requirement.
A typical one-year deployment earns the Selected Reserve service member a 60% Post 9/11 GI Bill rating; this same rating is inherited by the benefit recipient upon the receipt of transferred benefits. For the active duty spouse, the rating will automatically be 100% due to the three-years-after-Sepember 10, 2001 service requirement as it takes three years of Title 10 service (active duty, Guard or Reserve) to get the 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill rating.
To make a transfer request, the serving spouse goes to the Transfer of Benefits (TEB) website and enters into the spouse’s record the number of months to transfer. Once finished, the Status Block will show “Pending Review”. Periodically, the person making the transfer will have to check back on the spouse’s record and look for a status change of “Approved”. Approval can take up to 8 to 10 weeks.
Once approved, then the spouse has to submit VA Form 22-1990e from the eBenefits website. In return, the spouse will receive a Certificate of Eligibility, which is needed when registering for classes as a GI Bill student using Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits.
As far as funding, the spouse’s tuition and eligible fees are paid directly to the school by the VA. If s/he is attending a public school, then the amount is equal to what that school charges a student resident to that state. If the student has to pay out-state tuition or is attending a private school, then tuition and fees are limited to a maximum of $17,500 per year.
Spouses, with a 100% Post 9/11 GI Bill rating, may also qualify to use the Yellow Ribbon Program to help pay the difference between what the school charges and what the GI Bill pays. The school has to have a Yellow Ribbon agreement with the VA and his/her training program has to be included as a covered program.
Due to the passage of the GI Bill 2.0, a book stipend will be available starting on October 1st payable at the rate of $41.67 per credit, with a yearly maximum of $1,000 or enough for 24 credits. Before October 1st, military spouses are not authorized the book stipend.
Scholarships, Grants and Loans
This is the third prong and the most overlooked. If the spouse does not have Post 9/11 GI Bill transferred benefits (or does not have them yet), it could be used as second prong funding. There are literally hundreds of scholarships, loans and grants available.
Most of the service branches off a Spouse Tuition Assistance Program (STAP) for their military spouses. While the eligibility requirements vary (as some require the spouse to be overseas with the serving member while others do not) and the funding amounts vary (anywhere from a $3,000 no-interest loan to a 50% tuition payment with a $1,500 per year cap), there is almost something for every spouse.
And if by chance, you don’t find a military spouse scholarship right for you (or even if you do), you can apply for Federally-funded scholarships and grants by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).You will get back a listing of the applicable funding authorized for you. You may find you qualify for up to $4,000 in a Pell grant among other funding sources.
Also, don’t overlook the colleges themselves. Many offer their own scholarships and work-study programs. Other education funding sources and financial-funding search tools abound – it does take some work to root out the sources, but the time you invest can pay off handsomely with increased education funding.
Remember the old adage “where there is a will, there is a way”? You are a military spouse and a strong-willed one at that. Go find your way to a better life for your family, increased job opportunities and a rewarding career through better education!
Photo thanks to elle.g photography under creative commons license on Flickr.