I get the intent behind the rank-based limitations on MyCAA, the program that helps underwrite college courses, as well as certification and licensure programs. Truly, I do.
But it still kind of, sort of bothers me. There’s an implication of resources here that just isn’t right.
Why Can’t Senior Spouses Access MyCAA?
Again, I get it. MyCAA is meant to help military spouses of junior enlisted and newly commissioned troops access higher education. I’m totally behind this! I remember what those early days were like and just how tight money really was at the time. And while we are not rich by any stretch, honestly, we had it better than many of our peers financially.
Still, as a new(er) spouse, MyCAA was attractive. I just barely qualified based on my husband’s rank. Like by the skin of my teeth qualified. I was so pumped.
Then the plug was (temporarily) pulled as financing and bureaucratic issues were finagled behind the scenes. So my account was there, I just couldn’t do anything with the money. By the time everything was active again, my spouse had moved up and I no longer qualified.
Higher Rank Doesn’t Always Mean More Financial Resources
I’m sure the intent behind limiting MyCAA to spouses associated with certain ranks was well-intentioned. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees and MyCAA certainly doesn’t have enough funds to cover $4000 for every single active duty military spouse out there.
But limiting this program based on rank instead of true financial need implies that mid to senior level troops and families always have their accounts in order. Experience tells me that this is often not the case. Senior enlisted personnel and officers are vulnerable to financial missteps and issues, just like those lower on the totem pole.
Money issues could have been cleverly disguised through carefully balanced credit card juggling or other smoke-and-mirrors deception. You would never know, unless you’re in it, that the house load of new furniture was purchased using an almost maxed-out credit card. Or that a senior level family is living paycheck to paycheck.
Many senior enlisted personnel and officers do live this way.
But the implication of MyCAA is that they shouldn’t need extra financial help. They should be totally fine floating the cash or taking out a loan for the non-serving spouse’s higher education, licensure or certification.
Higher Rank Doesn’t Always Mean Advanced Careers or Degrees
The other troubling implication is that senior spouses should have already achieved the types of credentialing, licensure or education MyCAA supports. On the flip side, by targeting junior spouses it could also imply that this community is not as educated.
Neither implication is 100% true, but that niggling feeling of a nugget of truth is still there.
It feels like, as a senior spouse, I should absolutely have achieved XYZ degree, certification or licensure by now. And if I haven’t done so, I should have the financial flexibility to pay or borrow for it.
Just like being married to a PFC doesn’t mean a lack of higher education, being married to a Gunny or a Major doesn’t mean that it’s been achieved.
Limiting access to MyCAA based on rank makes it seem as though the community of senior spouses ought to have put this check in the box. “You’re senior, therefore you don’t need help to achieve your next career step.”
Limiting MyCAA Limits MilSpouse Dreams
Again, I get the intent: help the spouses of junior personnel who are more likely to have less financial resources and fewer opportunities to access higher education or career programs.
Totally, 100% back this train of thought. It’s great and totally altruistic and super helpful.
But what about the spouse who married their service member later in life? What about the mid-level officer spouse who has tried to make finances work on just one salary, when more is expected of the service member at work?
Limiting MyCAA based on rank instead of (or leaving out) true financial need is hindering military spouses from achieving their dreams. That mid-career spouse might be desperately needing to go back to school, to get a certification or license, in order to help boost the family financially. Yeah, looking at the service member’s rank might make it seem like they’ve got it all in the bag: money, career, family, life. But that rank might be hiding the money troubles or desire to start a career.
Having MyCAA open, in a limited fashion, to spouses of higher ranking troops might go a long way to fixing or alleviating the well-known spouse unemployment issues. More spouses would be able to access needed funds, based on true financial need, in order to help their military family get ahead.
And helping military spouses get ahead in their own careers is supposed to be the entire point of MyCAA. Except that it’s missing a major chunk of spouses in need.