While the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program is well-known for offering opportunities to military spouses, in our experience we’ve learned there are many common misconceptions about the scholarship program. This is unfortunate since it deters many spouses from pursuing licenses, certifications, or Associate’s degrees that can lead to careers in a variety of portable fields and occupations.
Today we’ll explain exactly what MyCAA is, and dispel five common myths around the program. That way, next time you or your spouse won’t hesitate to take advantage of this critical education funding.
What Exactly is MyCAA?
Sponsored by the Department of Defense and designed to offer education funding for eligible military spouses, MyCAA is a component of the DoD’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program. It was designed to help eligible military spouses pursue the skills needed for gainful employment in high-demand, high-growth portable career fields and occupations.
According to the official MyCAA website, the program “only pays for tuition for credentials, certificates, or Associate degrees with a specified concentration or major and examinations leading to a recognized license or industry certification.” However, it’s important to note that certificates and credentials may be for postgraduate work.
The program offers up to $4,000, which must be used over three years to pay for your training of choice. While you can use this money to pay for tuition, licensing and certification fees, funds don’t apply to other items like books, electronic devices, childcare, uniforms, etc. (That's why all of those are included in MedCerts programs).
Now that you have a general understanding of MyCAA, let’s look at some of the common misconceptions.
Misconception #1: “I Probably Don’t Qualify”
MyCAA is an entitlement program, which means you’re not competing against others to receive funding. This means all you have to worry about is meeting the eligibility requirements. And you’re eligible simply by being the spouse of an active duty service member in pay grades E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2, or O-1 to O-2, and being able to start and finish your coursework while your spouse is on Title 10 military orders. It’s important to note that spouses married to members of the National Guard and Reserve Components (in the same pay grades listed above) are also eligible.
For further clarification, here’s a shortlist of scenarios where you wouldn’t qualify for MyCAA funding:
You’re married but legally separated
You’re a spouse of Coast Guard service members
You’re a member of the armed forces, too
You’re a spouse of a National Guard/Reserve Component service member in a Warning Orders/Alert, Post Deployment/Demobilization, or Transition status
In other words, you probably do qualify.
Misconception #2: “Using MyCAA will affect my spouse’s G.I. Bill”
This is one of the biggest myths around MyCAA, even though MyCAA has absolutely nothing to do with the G.I. Bill, or any other benefits your spouse receives from service. It’s important to remember that the MyCAA program was designed expressly for military spouses. This means you should feel free to apply for funding without worrying about impacting your spouse’s benefits, whether you’re going after a new license, certification, or Associate’s degree.
Misconception #3: “There’s too much red tape around MyCAA funding”
Sure, you have to go through the application process. However, compared to other applications, MyCAA is relatively easy. And even if you’re not a fan of filling out applications, there are plenty of online resources available to lend a helping hand. In even better news, Military OneSource, the entity that handles applications, claims it only takes two weeks or less to review and approve your application.
So if you have concerns about a complicated government application process, you shouldn’t. All you have to do is set up your account, pull together your education plan, and apply for financial aid once your plan is given the green light.
Misconception #4: “If I don’t follow through, I’ll have to pay the money back”
Our best-laid plans often go astray. Life events or changes can certainly get in the way of preparing for a prosperous new career. But even if you accept funding and don’t follow through on your training, you won’t have to pay the money back. That said, keep in mind that if you drop out of a course or fail, your MyCAA funds will be frozen. You’ll need to speak to a program counselor to continue your training and career path.
Misconception #5: “My specific program or school probably won’t be approved”
Once again, there’s nothing to worry about here. While your program and school will need to be approved by MyCAA, there are tons of eligible programs and schools to choose from. And if you have a program or school that’s not already on MyCAA’s “approved” list, you always can submit your preference for approval.
Once you have an approved program, all you need is a specific area of focus, and ensure that you’re pursuing a license, a certificate, or an Associate’s degree. The only limitation, according to MyCAA, is that “the concentration or major for the Associate’s degree cannot be General Studies, Liberal Arts, or Interdisciplinary Studies unless there is a specific concentration such as General Studies – Nursing, or General Studies – Teaching.”
If you’re reading this, you’re interested in starting a new career with the help of MyCAA funds. If you’ve been procrastinating due to the five concerns we discussed above, hopefully, our answers have allayed any fears. MyCAA funds represent a unique opportunity for military spouses, and it’s an opportunity you should take advantage of.