20 July 2010

DoD gets a big fat DO BETTER: MyCAA

I am sure you all have heard around the blog-o-sphere... but the DoD has reinstated the MyCAA program, only with some pretty massive changes. Here's the link directly to the press release: DOD to Resume Restructured Military Spouse Career Program

Okay, so first things first on my Bitch List (patent pending):
1.  What the heck is with restricting these benefits to spouses of service members with pay grades E1 through E5, WO1-WO2 and O1-O2? That is effectively removing any Senior spouse from any benefits.

According to their press release, this segregation was put in place to help the spouses with the greatest need. I, for one, wholeheartedly disagree. Now, that isn't to say that those spouses aren't in need. It is me saying what does my spouse's rank have to do with need? Swiss is an E-8 and I, for all practical purposes, lost my hard earned career (which required extra schooling on top of my Bachelor's degree- this will be an important point in a minute) when we PCS's this last time. No jobs in the area and no other careers that would allow me to use my Cytology degree.

I am assuming that this "need" is likely financial, which I sort of get. However, I would then like to point out that for some of us with previously lucrative careers, loosing that income can have just as big of an impact on the household finances as that of any Junior spouse. Me? Leaving my job in Minnesota meant that we as a family made over $60,000.00 less this year. SIXTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. Less. Try to tell me that isn't justification for "need". To me, it is so naive to think that Senior spouses who loose careers and their families are less impacted by the lack of extra income. And it is a slap in the face to most Senior spouses who have endured tens of PCSes and have had to leave numerous jobs, resulting in resumes that look more like vacation itineraries, that their need isn't high enough because their spouse's rank is too high. In some regards, I think the senior spouses are the more likely to need the career guidance, the tweaks educational paths and the ones more in need of funding to help get new state certifications/licensure for pre-existing careers.

2. What the heck is with the funding only being available to those seeking Associates degrees, certifications or licensure?

Now, at the risk of sounding like a degree snob, rarely is an Associates degree the pathway to ANY career. Mostly, it is a pathway to a Bachelors degree- which is not permissible under this new program. If the real goal is to get spouses into portable careers that will help lend financial stability to the family and increase spouse morale... this ain't the way to do it. I fail to understand how limiting the types of degrees available to these spouses is helpful at all. What about the spouse one year away from finishing up a Bachelors degree? Too bad. What about one looking to get a Masters in Education to increase their odds of getting hired at a DoD school after their next PCS? Nope, not you! The spouse who wants to get a degree to be a therapist or counselor or social worker specifically to work with and help military families? HA! Why would the DoD help YOU?

Many of the spouses that I know who have truly portable careers, have much more than an Associates. And that isn't to say that it is impossible to get a great job/career with an Associates... but the DoD is encouraging a culture of underachieving. They are pushing spouses to get lesser degrees and maintain the norm of under-earning and flooded career paths. Not all of us can be medical transcriptionists or massage therapists. I do not approve.

I fail to see why the DoD is unwilling to let the spouses who qualify use the funds (which are fixed at $4,000 total, not to exceed $2,000/year) in any way they see fit. I would think that the end benefit from allowing these spouses get/finish advanced degrees would far outweigh any cons... and come to think of it, I can't come up with any cons. If the finances are fixed, it shouldn't matter what degree you get with that money.

And what is worse, is that the DoD is touting this as a vehicle to improve spouse morale and careers over time. Associates degrees and certifications WILL NOT do this. It is a band-aid at best on a wound that would be better served with stitches. To say it is shortsighted is not even the half of it. By targeting the younger spouses, it would make infinitely more sense to open the degree options up to the higher degrees to help create real career paths, rather than temporary ones, which is precisely what this format will do. Ask yourself: What will these spouses do in 5 years when advancement their field/career requires a Bachelors or Masters? You will have a generation of MilSpouses stalled out in entry-level careers. How is that fixing anything?

3. My biggest, over-arching problem with this re-vamp and the whole MyCAA debacle is that it is/was a failure to the greater MilSpouse community because the DoD just doesn't get it. There are promises of help and vows of caring... but the massive lack of useful, flexible, pro-active help for spouses only serves to illustrate how out of touch the DoD is with the problem

To say that they were caught off guard by the program's initial success and demand for services only goes to show that they never fully understood the MilSpouse career/education problem in the first place. I would guess that if any MilSpouse was asked if the program would be a raging success, they would have said yes without hesitation. Simply because we all understand how hard it is to get a good education or career that stays with you through years of military moves- and that the constant moves often lead to career do-overs and changes. The fact that the program was underfunded makes it ever-so apparent that the DoD has been (and still are) massively underestimating how big the issue is. Furthermore, by limiting the availability of the funding as well as the dollar amount AND the scope of its use, they aren't helping fix the problem for those who do qualify. They are only creating more of the same.

To say that I am frustrated by this turn of events is putting it mildly. I am not using this program and, frankly, even if I wanted to I couldn't (on like 3 counts). But, the bigger point is that in order to fix a problem, you first have to understand the root of it. Throwing money and restrictions at the problem will likely only lead to business as usual. Until the DoD chooses to TRULY understand why this is an issue for so many of us, why an Associates or certification isn't enough, why basing one's access to funding on their spouse's pay grade is just plain ridiculous, and that their idea of who and what a MilSpouse is (and what his/her goals might be) just might be stuck in the 50's, no augmentation to a program like this will result in true change.

I am disappointed in you DoD. It is one thing to bail on or modify promises, but it is an entirely different offense to fail (willingly or unwillingly) to understand the people you are claiming to be so committed to. It isn't help if it doesn't lead to change. And if you are so unwilling to understand our issues at their core, no number of programs, no amount of money, no level of "commitment" will ever improve the situation. So yes, you get a big fat Do Better. And don't expect a "Thank You" for the slap in the face either.

PS- for other takes on the MyCAA Hott Mess... check out the blog roll on the right. I think the top 10 are mostly posts on this very issues. The Natives are NOT happy folks! Pipe up and share you frustrations!


Unlikely Wife said...

I agree with everything you have said. I'm 28 and haven't earned my degree yet. My husband is an E-6. So obviously, it's MY fault for not marrying him sooner! Even funnier is the fact I want a degree in social work... something portable and needed! Yet my ambition is worth nothing to them. The ONLY certificate I would ever consider would be paralegal, just to pay for the rest of my education.

This upsets me so much. I suppose I should just pop out a baby right now, since I'm not good for anything else.

Brittany said...

Just out of curiosity, I looked it up for our area, and the difference in pay/BAH between an E6 with 7 years of Army exeprience (*ahem* my husband) and an O1/O2 with two years of experience is a WHOPPING $100 a month.

A hundred fucking dollars.

Yet, I can't use it. And they can.

I'm calling bullshit on this one!

Tucker said...

Seriously Brit? $100 a month? In no way, shape, or form would that cover going back to school. I mean, really. Even Swiss said that it should at least be extended up to Staff Sgts. Either way this is a spectacular failure.

And Unlikely Wife, I 100% agree how much this sucks, especially for those who were going to use it... but don't hesitate to call up Military OneSource and talk to someone there about other means of funding for MilSpouses. I have heard through the grapevine that there are other ways to get grants/scholarships, it just might not be that easy. And talk to your husband about him transferring part (if not all) of his Post 9-11 GI bill rights to you. You can go 50-50 or whatever works for you. E-mail me if you have any other questions- I'd hate to see you not become a counselor because of the stupid DoD! Good luck and Keep the Faith!

Tsoniki Crazy Bull said...

Well yay my husband is an O2 so I can use it!

Except I don't need (or want) an AA, certificate or license, I'm less then a year away from getting my BA. So I guess I can't use it.

I'm reading more and more blog posts about it and just getting more and more angry.

OregonBean said...

I don't know what's worse--being told my career plan has been approved and then finding out a week later I won't qualify for a dime by the time my classes start, OR. . . the official Public Affairs propaganda circulating about how to address the concerns and questions of the other 72,999 people in my boat! Apparently, I need to get behind DoD and support their long term goals for the program, even though they obviously don't give a rat's ass about any of our long term goals!

Unlikely Wife--maybe we should start up a club. I suspect there are lots of us out there who feel like someone wants us to pretend it's 1955 all over again(have some kids, make dinner, smile and keep your mouth shut, and don't forget to take your valium!)
**For the record, I am in no way mocking anyone who takes meds for anxiety or depression, or any other ailment**

I guess I need to press the hubby to transfer the remainder of his GI Bill to me, before they pull that rug out from under me as well!