DoD career program for spouses under scrutiny
By Fredreka Schouten
Posted : Monday Apr 9, 2012
Dana Kendall adored her dog, Toni, but struggled to manage the brindle-coated pit bull terrier she rescued from dog-fighting. The dog was unruly, had not been housebroken and did not respond to simple commands.
“She didn’t even know she was a dog,” says Kendall, 29. “I needed something that could help me help her.”
So the young Navy wife enrolled in dog-training lessons in 2009 through a California-based obedience school, Animal Behavior College. And the U.S. military picked up the entire tab as part of a Defense Department program to give military spouses career skills they can use no matter how often their families move.
The program, known as the My Career Advancement Account, has proved wildly popular: More than 147,000 spouses have participated since it began in 2009, and demand was so high the military briefly suspended the program, retooled it to apply only to the spouses of junior servicemembers and reduced the maximum benefit from $6,000 to $4,000.
The program now is facing scrutiny from Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and other lawmakers, who are examining the growing share of military education benefits going to for-profit schools. In fiscal year 2011, for instance, for-profit colleges got $280 million — half the money the military gave to active-duty personnel for tuition assistance, according to Harkin’s committee.
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