Military spouses may not receive the same public accolades as their partners in arms, but the challenges they face—and the sacrifices they make—are often as great. The federal government recognizes and honors the sacrifices of veterans and active servicemembers’ spouses by extending education benefits to military families.
The following are some of the most popular programs that increase access to education and broaden educational opportunities for servicemembers’ spouses and dependents.
MyCAA: The Military Spouse Career Advancement Account program (MyCAA), restructured in 2010 to reflect its popularity among the target population, directs military spouses toward what the Department of Defense (DoD) calls portable careers, or remote and transferable professions in fields such as IT, education and health services. Under the most recent revisions to MyCAA, spouses of servicemembers in E1-E5, W1-W2 or O1-O2 pay grades may receive a total of $4,000 in financial aid from DoD, with a $2,000 yearly limit. Eligible spouses must use the disbursed funds to obtain a license, certificate or associates degree within three years of the start date of their first class. Waivers of up to $4,000 may be available in one initial disbursement.
Survivors & Dependents Assistance (DEA): Available for spouses and dependents of deceased, permanently disabled, MIA, captured or detained servicemembers, DEA financial aid benefits are provided on a monthly basis, at a maximum of $925 per month over 45 months, and can be applied to both educational and vocational training opportunities. Spouses must apply for these benefits within ten years of established eligibility, while children must be between the ages of 18 and 26 to qualify.
Post-9/11 GI Bill (GI 2.0) Transfer of Entitlement: Under the most recent version of the GI Bill, active-duty or Select Reserve military members who have served for at least six years and are willing to commit to four more years of service may transfer their unused education benefits to their spouses or dependents. Spouses can use the transferred education benefits immediately, while children/dependents may not use them until the ten requisite years of service are complete. GI Bill education benefits are calibrated according to time served and include a percentage of tuition, a housing allowance, and a books and supplies stipend for up to 36 months. The state of residence and the numbers of courses taken determine the rates of funds disbursed, in addition to the military member’s term of service.
Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program (SEAP): The Army Emergency Relief Organization runs this program, which offers up to $2,500 per academic year for federal active-duty, retired or deceased servicemembers’ spouses living in the U.S. who are pursuing their first undergraduate degree. Eligible spouses must reapply on an annual basis, and assistance is limited to a four-year term for full-time students and an eight-year term for part-time students. Scholarships are based on need as expressed in a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Awardees must be enrolled or pending enrollment in a college or university and retain a 2.0 minimum GPA. A complementary program is available for overseas spouses, the Overseas Spouse Education Assistance Program (OSEAP), which awards up to $2,900 annually.
The sacrifices that military members and their families make can’t ever be fully repaid, but access to education is some of the most valuable compensation available. With the many programs now offered by DoD and the federal government, most military spouses and dependents can anticipate some financial assistance as they pursue a better life through higher education.