HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Military spouses in the Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg communities, and across the Army, who are interested in furthering their education, now have a new option to receive up to $6,000 in financial assistance.

The Department of Defense Military Spouse Career Advancement Account provides employment, career, education, counseling and financial assistance for spouses of active-duty and activated reserve service members worldwide.

"It's not competitive, it's not merit based, it's not specific to one university or one skill," said Michiel DeVito, Heidelberg Army Community Service Employment Readiness Program manager. "It is a generic 'what to you want to do, what do you think would be portable''"

All spouses have to do is sign up for a MyCAA account and create a career plan, which includes the help of an education counselor. Funding is available for most any "portable career" a military spouse may be interested in pursuing. Spouses' eligibility is determined through the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.

"I think another aspect of it is the fact that we've talked about how important employment is for military spouses, and I think this is another way for the military to show spouses how important they are and to provide them the tools that they need in order to obtain a career goal," DeVito said.

The money could go to career plans ranging from business school to cosmetology training and most any career in between, according to DeVito.

"I didn't see a lot of limitations on what they want that money to go for," she said. "It was a very broad spectrum."

While the funding has not yet been released, the program's initial pilot testing phase is over and registration is now open for spouses to get a head start on the program. If spouses enroll now, there is a good chance they'll get the first wave of the scholarship money once it is opened up, according to DeVito.

Linda Rush, a military spouse for 20 years and Heidelberg resident for the past two years, has already enrolled in the program and is using it to help finish her undergraduate degree in business through the University of Maryland. She expects to graduate next May.

She said she was amazed at the simplicity of the program - just sign up and start talking to a career counselor. She also was excited to find out that the program will pay for tests through the College Level Examination Program and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support.

"Just thinking about how difficult it's been with moving all the years in the past, it's finally nice to see that they are supporting military spouses," Rush said. "It's so hard for us to finish. I've tried so many times over the years to go back and especially living overseas. I think (MyCAA) is wonderful. I think it will help so many younger spouses go back to school and finish."

The MyCAA program covers courses in technical schools all the way through graduate-level programs. It also covers extra training or certifications for spouses who are already employed and may need extra training to help further their careers.

"I think this opens a lot of doors, and it helps take care of some of those hurdles that we put in place just by the lifestyles that we have," DeVito said. "It's not anybody's fault; a lot of times it's just where we're at, but I think this is just another great example of taking care of our spouses the way that we need to and giving them some opportunities."

(Editor's Note: Kristen Marquez works in the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg Public Affairs Office).