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:
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!