SAVANNAH, Ga. — Military spouses were enthusiastic when the government started offering them grants last year of up to $6,000 for college or career training. Word spread quickly and they signed up by the tens of thousands.
But the response was so heavy that it nearly busted the fledgling program’s budget, prompting the Defense Department to suspend it abruptly last week.
That has triggered outrage from spouses of sailors, soldiers, Marines and airmen, a group that can use extra help on the jobs front because their frequent moves hamper careers.
More than 1,200 military spouses have joined a Facebook group to vent their outrage and share letters to their congressmen. Others are proposing a protest rally in Norfolk, Va. or Washington.
They say they’re stunned that a rare perk offered specifically to military spouses would be snatched away. And they’re furious that officials shut down the program without warning and with little explanation.
“The DOD showed lack of respect for the spouses,” said Rebecca Duncan, wife of a sailor stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas. “To me this was a huge slap in our faces.”
While the grants are still paying for classes and training for thousands already enrolled, 36-year-old Duncan says the shutdown left her in limbo.
The program — called Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts, or MyCAA — started in March 2009. Spouses of active-duty military service members and of reservists called to active duty could apply for up to $6,000 to pay for college tuition or costs associated with professional licenses and certificates.
The program aimed to help military wives and husbands overcome obstacles to finding jobs, a hot-button issue because military families relocate every three years on average. That makes some employers hesitant to hire military spouses and means they often don’t keep jobs long enough to earn promotions and raises.
About 98,000 military spouses were enrolled in the program when it was suspended, the Defense Department said, and 38,000 more had applied.