Active-duty service members generally earn modest salaries, and with soldiers frequently serving as the primary breadwinners, military families are struggling to make ends meet. The Department of Defense estimates that military families move 10 times more than the average family, which further compounds financial and budgeting concerns. While military spouses would like to help make ends meet, finding careers, paying for college and obtaining affordable childcare are major roadblocks to achieving this goal. By using the following four resources, military spouses can overcome these obstacles and significantly contribute to managing their family’s finances.
Military spouses can help ease the financial burden of pursuing higher education by taking advantage of military dependent scholarships. Spouses and children of military service members are eligible for educational assistance programs, and your spouse may even transfer any unused GI Bill benefits to you or your child. Children may receive GI Bill benefits after the service member has completed 10 years of active-duty service; however, spouses may immediately begin using these funds. Additionally, spouses may use benefits up to 15 years after the spouse’s discharge from active duty. It is important to note, however, that spouses may not use this benefit to receive monthly stipends for books or supplies while the service member is on active duty.
Another benefit available to spouses and children is Survivors and Dependents Education Assistance (DEA). You may qualify for this benefit if the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has declared your spouse permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability, or has died from any other cause while this disability existed. Spouses and children of service members who are missing in action or were captured in the line of duty may also receive this benefit. You can apply for DEA by filling out VA Form 22-5490, Application for Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance.
You may also be able to earn up to $4,000 in tuition assistance through the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA). To qualify for this, you must be a spouse of an active-duty service member in pay grades E1-E5, W1-W2 or O1-O2. Additional requirements include completion of your course within three years, which must also be during the time your spouse is activated under Title 10 orders. You may apply for this benefit online by starting a MyCAA account.
One of the greatest financial obstacles facing military spouses is finding a way to land a high-paying job while frequently relocating to different states. Services such as Military Spouse Educational and Career Opportunities (SECO) help ease this burden by offering training and career-licensing opportunities to military spouses. You can receive one-on-one assistance by calling 1-800-342-9647 and speaking with a counselor. These advisors will provide free advice on finding a job, receiving training and transferring your professional license to the state you are moving to. The new State Licensing Initiative now allows employers in most states to hire employees while they are working toward obtaining the additional licensing requirements needed in that particular state.
You may also receive additional help by attending a Hiring Our Heroes event in your area. By attending one of these events, you can receive help with resume writing, certification and licensing, job training and entrepreneurship advice.
Childcare Assistance Programs
For working spouses of military members, childcare costs can make managing finances extremely challenging. Easing this financial burden can lead to dramatic savings and give you more financial freedom to pursue your career goals. Childcare assistance is available through programs such as the Armed Forces YMCA, which partners with local military leaders to offer low or no-cost childcare as well as youth and teen programs.
If you are a VA employee, you may also be eligible to have up to 45 percent of your summer childcare costs paid for. VA employees with children under the age of 13 or a disabled child under the age of 18 should apply for this benefit by submitting a VA Form 0730h for each month of childcare received. Contact the human resources representative in your office to find out if your VA organization participates in this program.
Financial Counseling Services
One perk of being a military spouse is that you can receive free financial counseling. Whereas civilian families must pay for these services, military families have a wealth of financial resources available to them at no cost. Each branch of the military offers financial classes on topics such as recordkeeping, managing credit cards, planning for deployment and budgeting. You may also receive individual financial counseling on topics ranging from military-savings programs to debt repayment. These services are available through the Military Installations website. You may also contact Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9637.
Military spouses are important assets to keeping a military family’s finances in order. Fortunately, there are many available resources to assist spouses in managing their finances, and creating a stable and worry-free financial future.
About the Author: Joan Myer is a contributing writer and works as a financial advisor to military families.