A DoD family council wants service members to be able to use college tuition assistance for licensing and technical certifications — and to expand TA to military spouses.

DoD should look at opening up the use of TA funding for service members not only at accredited education institutions, but also for technical certifications, "where the preponderance of our young men and women who are leaving the service are going to find employment in the civilian sector," said Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey at the Sept. 14 DoD Military Family Readiness Council meeting. 

Using TA for technical credentials is one of five ideas that will go to the secretary of defense as part of the family council's yearly recommendations for improving the lives of military families. The idea would have to go through a number of steps in any approval process.

The council also added another element to the recommendation — the possibility of expanding TA to spouses.

Dailey has said one of his priorities for 2016 has been to push for expanding tuition assistance to pay for credentialing opportunities for soldiers — to allow soldiers to use TA to pay for civilian-equivalent credentials. Not every soldier wants to attend college, and this would help prepare them for their transition to civilian life, Dailey contends.

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The Military Spouse Career Advancement Account program is separate from service members’ tuition assistance and is available to spouses of lower-ranking troops. It helps pay for spouses’ costs associated with pursuing licenses, certificates, certifications or associate degrees. But spouses of more senior troops have complained over the years that they're not eligible for the MyCAA program.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said DoD needs to take a holistic look at education benefits and how they affect the entire military family. Perhaps there may be times when the service member couldn’t use his or her tuition assistance benefit during a particular year because of a deployment or other reasons, he noted, but it might be the perfect time for the spouse to take classes.

Cody said the family council could  partner with DoD in looking at how education benefits affect the entire family — and that there might be ways for families to get access to some of the benefits without expanding the cost to the government, he said.

Diana Banks, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military education, said there needs to be a consensus within DoD about what the goals and objectives are of these programs.

Stephanie Barna, principal deputy to the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the Defense Department "is absolutely committed to continuing tuition assistance and MyCAA.

"There is no doubt on any of those counts."