About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Wildflowerlady

    MyCAA recipient since June/July 2009

    Frustrated by the lack of useful information provided by the MyCAA resource line, and clearly not understanding why more specific detail or notice has been given, I started looking into the reasoning behind the sudden stop the MyCAA program has implemented. The resource line rep at MyCAA kept referring to “they” in their reasoning which I finally learned was the DOD – but who at the DOD. I started making phone calls…

    On Friday, 26 February I spoke with a DOD representative supposedly connected to, or in charge of, the MyCAA program, Pat Shanaghan. This after speaking with a very secretative DOD spokesperson April Cunningham – she let Shanaghan know of my interest in speak with someone in charge of the program and passed on my contact info – she refused to give me contact information.

    While talking by phone, Shanaghan unequivocally told me that the MyCAA program is an unguaranteed benefit program which never promised to provide funds past what is approved through the financial assistance voucher process, regardless of being told a total of $6000 is allocated per approved spouse. The figure that was listed in the top right corner of the log in page which stated how much money a spouse had left to use of the $6000 was basically fictitious – not a guarantee of funds left to use but a guide to what might be a spouses fund if a financial assistance voucher is completed – and as we all know, vouchers for those funds are limited to current class enrollments.

    For my account, I had used about $3000 of my supposed $6000 fund. Basically, the funds are pooled and taken from a big pot, when that pot grew close to emptying the plug was pulled on the program and it did not matter what “funds” were left in each spouses account because these DOD officials never earmarked the funds for specific spouse use, rather a general fund. You see, even though we were told we would get $6000, that money was not marked for individual use despite what each spouse’s log on page listed as available, not to mention the MyCAA official notation on college financial documentation listing appropriated funds as tuition assistance (EMPL) loans.

    From what I learned talking with Shanaghan, the month of January saw a huge spike in DOD approvals of spouse program applications. Basically, this office approved too many spouses for funds that were not available. Instead of turning away new applicants due to insufficient funds, they shut down the program for “review”. This shutdown is the result of poor oversight – the pool of funds should have been better accounted for when considering what funding was already approved to a large number of spouses. I was under the impression that the MyCAA program would stop taking applications at a certain point in order to maintain service to those already promised funds. Be this as it may, someone approved far too many applications for what funds were available. For my account, I looked at this transaction as binding – I was approved for $6000, I counted on that $6000 and expected to use it fully. As I told Shanaghan, a person cannot walk away from a student loan of $6000 and say – oh sorry I have no more money – so MyCAA should not be allowed to do the same. This is where Shanaghan insisted this program was an unguaranteed benefit that can be taken away at any time. It seems to me this is class action legal material.

    When asked if the program would be brought back online, Shanaghan seemed to believe it would, but would probably be changed. I told him I had about $1700 due next month – would my funding be there for that, should I tell the college that MyCAA would pay it – he told me no, that would not be wise to do. When asked if the amount previously approved for spouses would be changed he said everything was being considered.

    Due to poor oversight and the lack of true commitment to spouses approved for this program prior to January the government has found yet another way to be unaccountable.

    Should you wish to voice your concern and questions about this program – use the following contact information, this worked for me:

    Defense Department spokeswoman Air Force Maj. April Cunningham 703-697-6727

    MyCAA Director Pat Shanaghan 901-874-6643 (as shown on my caller ID)
    http://www.ccmeonline.org/docs/2009/2009_02.pdf

  • @Wildflowerlady

    Great job!!! That is definitely more substantive information than we have gotten from others so far.

    We still need to push to get an actual deadline for when the program will be up and running again… And, frankly, we still need to push to have the program reinstated for those whose career plans were already approved. I’m with you; we relied on those funds, and DOD should make good on those promises… even if the program was “discretionary” overall, they shouldn’t be able to pull the plug on people whose plans were already approved!

    Here’s a letter I drafted to my reps/senators… Anyone who wants to use it as a template, feel free…
    http://www.stilettogear.com/takeaction_mycaa.htm

  • mfisher32

    I’m writing to ask your members of congress to join the Congressional Military Family Caucus in

    signing a letter to the Pentagon urging Defense officials to reinstate

    Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (CAA).

    The Pentagon suspended CAA enrollments last week, citing concerns about

    the potential cost because much larger-than-expected numbers of spouses

    were enrolling.

    Congress authorized the CAA program last year to authorize financial

    support to help military spouses with education, training, and

    certification/licensing expenses needed to offset career disruptions

    caused by military-directed relocations.

    The suspension has left 38,000 applicants hanging, with no viable

    alternative. The abrupt suspension jeopardizes the tremendous goodwill

    and appreciation engendered among spouses for this extremely important

    program.

    Additionally, my spouse is one of the 38,000. She was entering her class

    codes into the system to complete her application at 5 pm one evening and

    saw that they had shut down the program only 1 hour earlier. We couldn’t

    believe it – she had already been told by program officials by email that

    she had been approved for the program. She is concerned, as she has

    already enrolled in the courses and will have to pay, regardless of how

    the program turns out. In fact, she is concerned that the University will

    collect and then by her paying, will make her ineligible for MyCAA funding

    which is to be handled directly between the Federal government and the

    University.

    Please ask your members of congress to contact the offices of the Caucus co-chairs, Reps. Sanford Bishop

    or Cathy McMorris-Rogers by noon Monday, March 1 to join in signing the

    Caucus letter.

  • Robert M. – Florida

    Dear MFisher 32,

    Your spouse can not be charged for her courses. According to the MyCAA guidelines all studentys have ten days from the start date of a program to withdraw without penalty. I have a worked as a MYCAA counselor for school in Jacksonville Florida and know this to be the case. If you would like to contact me in regards to this matter please feel free to do so by visiting my site at http://www.mycaajax.com. I will be happy to assist you in any way I can.

    Good Luck Robert M.

  • Amber Dyson

    I chose a degree program *specifically* because it was one the myCAA program covered. I might well have gone another route, but I really needed that $6000 to help defray student loans. Now I’m in my second semester. I can’t tell my school (Thomas Edison State College), “Oh, myCAA backed out, I changed my mind, don’t charge me after all.” Also, I had $2000 requested and approved for last semester that has yet to be paid to my school, let alone the rest of the benefit. Now I’ve got to finish this program that I did specifically because myCAA said they’d be giving me $6000 toward it and incur a large amount of student loan debt to do it.

    This is absolutely unreal to me. I’ve seen some pretty bad apathy toward families from the military, but this is absolutely offensive. They have made me (and my active duty husband) worse off than if they had never promised anything to begin with.

    If anyone starts a class action lawsuit, I absolutely want to be included. I very much appreciate those of you who are ferreting out so much information and giving advice on how to pursue this. I’m so angry.

    I can be contacted at ambyrle at gmail dot com.

  • I too, was “surprised” that MYCAA suddenly suspended the program without notice. Well, that’s not entirely true…I knew it sounded too good to be true at its inception, but I gave MYCAA the benefit of the doubt once I saw my account with a credit of $6,000. Good thing I jumped on the program in its infancy. Alhough I only had $458 dollars remaining in my account, that sure would have defrayed costs out of my own pocket had I been able to use these remaining funds. I graduate this May, and this sudden suspension of funds left me with an additional expense my family did not expect. With a tuition of $2,000, textbooks, graduation fees, transcripts, cap and gown, announcements, etc…that $458 sure would have helped. Oh well, the only thing I can say is that once we find out about military programs for spouses, we need to jump on it right away, for we don’t know when that program will cease to exist (without notification, mind you). It’s quite evident that someone does not have proper oversight in this program, and it makes me wonder what other programs will meet this same fate. Top executives and CEO’s have been relieved for matters such as this. It goes to show that good intentions will go nowhere without good supervision. Hopefully those spouses/students affected by this breach of commitment/contract will soon be granted the funds reserved for them. And, I agree with the writer in saying that a breach of contract did occur. If we were not successful in our classes, I assure you, MYCAA would NOT have paid for those classes. This leads me to believe that when two parties are subject to meeting certain conditions, and one met those conditions, and the other did not…a breach occurred. If you don’t believe me, ask that Soldier who signed an enlistment contract and failed to show up for training. Guess where he/she will be? In jail. That’s exactly what MYCAA did to us.

  • Freddie King

    This MYCAA program is really lacking correct leadership and guidance. I say this because it has once again abruptly stopped the program and changed the requirements. Now only E1-E5, W01-WO2, O1-O2 can use the program. Are you seriously thinking that Warrant officers and Officers don’t make more money than Staff Sergeants and the other enlisted Soldiers that are now ineligible to use the program. This makes no sense.