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Owens Pushes For More Benefits For Military Spouses

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Bill Owens today continued his fight to support Fort Drum soldiers and their families by investigating the recent pause of the Department of Defense's Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA). MyCAA was temporarily halted on February 16 to allow the DoD to evaluate the program. Monday, Owens signed a letter urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to make the program's evaluation period as short as possible and to quickly reinstate MyCAA.

"The MyCAA program supports our military spouses as they work to better their career and support their families. It is disturbing that the DoD has stopped the program without any warning to our troops and their loved ones. Our military families deserve transparency in their benefits, but they should not suffer a gap in coverage while the DoD is reviewing this program," Owens said.

The Spouse Career Advancement Account is one of the first programs to provide educational funding assistance directly to military spouses to pursue high-demand, high growth occupations. The program was paused to allow the DoD to ensure efficiency in MyCAA. Since it was established in March of 2009, nearly 133,000 military spouses have applied for benefits. To date, approximately 98,000 spouses are enrolled in courses or have been approved for financial assistance.

Military spouses who already have been approved for financial assistance will not be affected. However, during the review, spouses will not be able to create a new account and new applications will not be accepted.

"Our troops and their families sacrifice a great deal for our nation every day, and we must do better to ensure that we take care of them," Owens added. "If our Fort Drum families miss out on one dollar of the benefits that are due to them, Washington is doing them a disservice."

Additional information from the Department of Defense regarding the review of MyCAA is included below:

Why was the program stopped? Why is this pause necessary?
The operational pause announced last week was necessitated by an unforeseen, unprecedented spike in enrollments. In January 2010, MyCAA applications increased six-fold over previous months and elevated levels continued in February. These applications were overwhelming the system intended to support the program and almost reached the budget threshold.

Why can't the Department continue the program during this review?
A critical combination of factors made this action necessary. While we had planned a full-spectrum analysis of the program at the anniversary of the soft launch, we did not anticipate the near six-fold increase in enrollments that took place in January and February. These applications were overwhelming the system intended to support the program and almost reached the budget threshold.

What happens to people who didn't get their applications in before the cut-off date?
Spouses with a MyCAA account may continue to use the MyCAA Web site for career counseling and planning. No new financial assistance documents will be approved during this review period.

What was the cut-off date?
The pause took effect at 4:00 PM on 16 February 2010.

Will spouses be able to continue their academic program and fund their classes and then seek reimbursement when the program is re-started?
No reimbursements are planned at the conclusion of the pause.

How many spouses have received scholarships?
More than 136,000 military spouses have applied and approximately 98,000 spouses have been proved for financial assistance.

How many have been denied because of the pause?
There is no "denial" process for applications during the pause, and therefore no data on that volume, because no applications have been accepted since the pause began. All currently approved financial assistance documents will be funded without interruption. All financial assistance applications submitted prior to the pause were approved.

How long is the pause/review supposed to last?
We expect to announce our long-term strategies very soon and will do our best to keep this operational pause to a minimum.

Will spouses be notified when the program resumes and when?
Yes. All spouses will be notified before the program resumes.

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