Tag Archives: education

Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a Military Spouse

Let’s be honest: the Post-9/11 GI Bill is a huge educational benefit for a service member. With that, comes the option for a service member to transfer all or some of the benefit to a spouse or child(ren). My husband decided to share his Post-9/11 GI bill benefit with me, and I am forever grateful.


How does it work?
An eligible service member (someone who has served the required number of years–generally 6–and agrees to serve for 4 more years) may apply to his or her service branch to transfer the benefit to a spouse. The request to “Transfer of Education Benefits (TEB)” must be completed while the service member is on active duty. A veteran or retiree cannot transfer an unused Post-9/11 GI benefit. Sorry, no exceptions to this rule. The TEB is a placeholder, if you will, and can be done in advance of the recipient attending school.

First, find your favorite college-football team, I mean school!

Next, select your school of choice with the education program of your choosing. You must work directly with the school admission’s office to apply and be accepted into the program. After you have been accepted, you’ll want to find the school’s Veteran Certifying Official or Veterans Certification Office. Program names may differ but essentially you’ll need to find the office or person who can answer your questions about how your school processes the Post-9/11 GI bill benefit.

Ready to use the benefit?
When you are ready to use the Post-9/11 GI bill to pay for school, you’ll need to send the completed TEB form to the VA. This can be done online via the eBenefits portal. This lets the VA know you have selected a school and are ready to use the benefit. You’ll probably need to register for classes and coordinate with the Veteran Certifying Official at your school, too. Generally, your school’s VA official will need to certify your enrollment with the VA before the start of each term.

What benefits will I receive as a spouse?
A spouse may start using a transferred benefit immediately, and may use the benefit while the service member is on active duty. Benefits include tuition, fees, a book stipend, and a monthly housing allowance. However, a spouse isn’t eligible for the monthly housing allowance if the service member is on active duty. A spouse using a transferred benefit is eligible for all tuition and fee payments for an in-state student. If you attend a private or foreign school, the annual tuition rate is capped. For the 2015 – 2016 school year, the maximum amount for a private or foreign school is $21, 084.89.

post-9-11-gi-bill-for-military-spousesWhat are some tips I should know?
Tuition and fee payments will be sent directly to your school. However, if there is an over-payment of tuition or fees, you’ll receive a notice from the VA asking you to repay the erroneous funds. Be prepared to talk to your school if you need to return money to the VA.

The book stipend and monthly housing allowance (if eligible) will be sent directly to you. If you are eligible for the housing allowance and attend school online, the rate is $783.00 a month. For in-person, full-time attendance, the housing allowance is an E-5 with dependent rate, based on the school’s zip code location.

If you are using the Post-9/11 GI bill as a spouse after your service member has left active duty, check to see if your school program participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. Schools can elect to participate in this program and provide additional funding for education. If you are attending a private school, the Yellow Ribbon program can help you cover the additional costs. Keep in mind this is a voluntary program and the school sets the number of available spots per program per school each academic year. For example, a school may elect to have an unlimited number of undergraduate Yellow Ribbon spots, but may limit graduate programs to a certain number of seats per program, such as 5 for law school or 3 for a masters program.

Are you a military spouse who used a transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit? What other tips would you share?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

The Trifecta: Find The Perfect Job for Your Military Life

When I have conversations with military spouse friends, it’s a good bet one of them is in search of a job at any given time during the year. They are trying to find a job in the field they studied in school, or trying to find anything in the little rural town they are now stationed at. Whatever the challenge is, we all know it can be a beast to make the same career work with a military lifestyle.



One thing that we all need to believe is that military spouses can, and should, tame these beasts!

During my work with NMFA, I have come across many spouses in all kinds of situations. With this firsthand knowledge, paired with a little research, I have figured out there’s a key to taming the beast…and it’s called the Trifecta.

When in the market for a job, or even when you are considering going back to school, the Trifecta should be at the forefront of your mind. Too often, military spouses pursue education or jobs that are lackluster, and definitely not Trifecta material. Whether these spouses chose convenience and cost, before considering stability and longevity, it’s important to know that the Trifecta will make those precious dollars spent on your education and career well worth it in the long run.

If you’re returning to school or applying for jobs, keep the Trifecta at the top of mind and you will be one step closer to a more lucrative and durable career to compliment your military life. Consider what could happen if you don’t take these questions seriously: What school should I go to? What degree? What certification? What job?

Remember: don’t settle. You can tame the education and career beast!

So, what’s the Trifecta, and why should it matter to me? A job will fall under the awesome Trifecta if it’s:

  1. In a high demand field: ‘High demand’ can be defined as urgent or pressing requirement. Jobs in high demand will have more opportunities and more availability for new positions. In nut shell – they will be hiring!
  2. Financially sound: Consider what the pay will be and what the pay potential can be. People who are getting paid to their satisfaction are more likely to be happy and more likely to stay in those positions. According to the Social Security Administration the national average wage index for 2013 (last reported) was $44,888.16.
  3. Portable: This is the elusive golden egg for military spouses who are moving around every few years. If the job or career is not portable, you may have to start from square one and get back in the job market all over again.

But what does a Trifecta job look like? Here are some careers that fit the bill:

After researching statistics with the Department of Labor, I have determined these jobs not only are in high demand, but they are financially sounds jobs, which could be portable. This certainly isn’t a complete list of all the Trifecta jobs out there, but these are options that should be highly considered.

Think your ready to go back to school, or find your new career, but not sure where to start? Join us tonight for a Facebook party, where NMFA will be giving away $5,000 in scholarships, and where you’ll have a chance to chat with panelist and other military spouses who’ve gone back to school, found Trifecta jobs, and who want you to know their secret to finding it! The fun starts at 9pm ET! Come join us in your PJ’s and network with other military spouses!

Believe in Yourself

Have you had any luck finding a job that fits the Trifecta? Tell us about it!

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

#MoreThanASpouse: How 85% of People Find Their Next Job

Like many military spouses, I got a late start on my career. Early on, my husband and I agreed that it made the most sense for me to stay home with our son until he was in school. Unfortunately, by the time our son was ready to head to school, we were stationed overseas for two back-to-back assignments, further delaying the start of any meaningful career.


When we moved back to Washington, D.C. from overseas, I was so excited about the prospect of finally putting my degrees to work. Our son was going to be in school full time, my husband was going to a desk job, our extended family lived close by in case we needed help, and we were finally moving back home! I remember being so optimistic; I had a Master’s degree and spoke three languages, surely I would have my choice of interesting jobs.

I was wrong.

The DC area ranks the highest in the nation for people with advanced degrees. It is also a very multi-cultural area, and most people are multi-lingual. My ‘competitive edge’ wasn’t going to be enough to make me stand out. I kept a binder full of all the jobs I applied for and the rejection letters I received. That binder was getting impressively thick when I realized I was going nowhere fast.

Thankfully, I had a wonderful mentor who encouraged me to start networking and meeting more people. My job search had been full of a few ‘ups’ and some more debilitating ‘downs,’ up to that point, and I was at the end of my wits. I was willing to try just about anything within reason to get my foot in the door, so why not start networking? I pushed outside of my comfort zone and got serious about expanding my networks. I began to see everyone as a potential connection.

While I was auditing a class on Congress and the Military, one of the speakers really resonated with me. When the session ended, I walked up to introduce myself, thanked her for everything she and her organization did on behalf of military families, and finished with an offer to volunteer if they ever needed the extra help. When I got home, I followed up with an email note sharing a little more about my background, reiterating my offer of assistance, and attached my resume.

I was mildly surprised when an email came back encouraging me to apply for a job that she thought would be a great fit for within their organization. Fast forward a few months, I did end up going to work for that organization, but more importantly, I learned a very important lesson: over 85% of people will find their next job through the ‘hidden job market’ (jobs that are not actually posted to the general public).

In order to access these jobs, you need to expand your networks. There are no shortcuts…you need to get out there and meet people! Platforms like LinkedIn have helped equalize the playing field for military spouses, to a certain extent, allowing us to start networking before we even move to the next installation. But nothing replaces that face to face interaction. You’re going to have to get out there and meet people. Be on the lookout for conferences to hone your skills, learn about the latest resources, and meet people within your industry. Make sure you have a networking card, attend events, and be diligent about your follow up. This is what’s going to make the difference in your job search.

Entrepreneurs, the advice is just as relevant for you: when you move, you’re going to need to find your niche, your community and your new potential clients/customers.

Getting started can be a bit daunting. As an introvert, I understand this well! If you’d like some more information about Networking 101, check out our easy tutorial. If you’re ready to put your networking skills to work and eager to learn more about building portable careers, we hope you’ll join us at our 5th Annual Military Spouse Career Summit to meet like minded military spouses.

Remember: the online community is great, but nothing beats that face to face interaction. Get out there and start networking!

Believe in Yourself

Ready to network? Get your pajamas, a glass of hot tea, and your laptop ready! Join NMFA and other military spouses – including myself – for a Facebook party tomorrow from 9pm-10pm EST as we chat, network, and share our education and career goals! If you’re ready to be #MoreThanASpouse: this is a virtual networking event you don’t want to miss!

sue-hoppin-headshotPosted by Sue Hoppin, military spouse, Founder and President of the National Military Spouse Network–a professional development and networking membership organization supporting the professional career and entrepreneurial goals of military spouses

Tips for Military Spouses: How to Land Your Dream Job!

I was hired by NMFA almost six months ago. When I was looking at this job, it was clear I had all the experience and expertise I needed to thrive. What I didn’t have was experience interviewing. I was so nervous! In the days leading up to my interview, I spent a good chunk of time on Pinterest looking for the internet’s best tips and tricks to help me land the job. They must have worked, because I am here to write this blog post for you today!

How to Land Your Dream Job

Fill in the Blanks

I have yet to meet a military spouse without an employment gap in their resume. Orders overseas, short orders to isolated locations and licencing transfer issues can all add up to a resume that resembles Swiss cheese.

However, many of us keep busy with unit booster clubs, spouses clubs, FRG’s, and other volunteer work. The time you spent as the events chair for the spouses club, and the year you spent volunteering with the PTA can go on your resume. Fill in those blanks!

Fancy that Resume

You want your resume to stand out from the crowd. This tip really comes down to what field you are applying for, but for me, with a job in the communications field, a fancy resume was a no-brainer. This job required design work and social media savvy, so I chose to go with a graphics heavy, colorful resume that linked directly to my social media accounts. It may not have been what landed me this job, but it did help me stand out from the crowd.

Even if you are applying for a more conservative field (those finance execs may not be impressed with your use of color) you can still get creative with your layout, white space and phrasing.

Leverage your  Connections

One perk of being a military spouse is that you probably know people all over the world. When I applied for this job, I phoned in a friend I met earlier this year at Hiring Our Heroes to look over my resume. She promised she would personally send it along to my (soon to be) boss, and I have no doubt her help ensured my resume would actually be read. If you know someone who knows someone, don’t be afraid to give them a call to put in a good word for you!

Dress for Success

When you do show up for your interview, first impressions count. You’ll want to make sure you are appropriately dressed. Do your research! Did you know different colors send different messages? Do you know when to bring out the colorful jewelry, and when to stick with stud earrings?

Speak Clearly and Stand Up Straight

Now that you are in the room, it’s time for the hard part! Never underestimate the power of eye contact, a firm handshake (and a friendly laugh!).

Answer (and Ask!) Hard Questions

Be prepared for your interview! Don’t forget to do your research about the company you are applying to. Be prepared with questions about the goals and mission. Show your excitement about the job. Ask your own questions, and be prepared to give details about the experiences you listed on your resume.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard

I don’t have a Pinterest tip for this one, but I wish I had one before my interview! I was prepared to answer questions, but I was not prepared for a group interview, or, the hands-on test that followed our sit-down. In my interview, I met my entire department, answered questions from each person, and then was handed an assignment and was given an hour to complete it. I don’t think I have ever sweat so much in my life! The good news is, I really was qualified for the job, so completing the assignment wasn’t terrible… but I did go home and obsess over my answers for days.


Following up feels like the most awkward part of the entire process, but I do think it’s valuable. After the interview, make sure you contact the person you met with to thank them for their time. This is a great chance to ask for a timetable (if you didn’t remember to ask during the interview) so you have some idea of how long you’ll have to wait for a decision!

Believe in Yourself

Are you unsure of your career goals? NMFA has scholarships and resources to help you make a career change or get started on your degree. Make sure you join us at our #MoreThanASpouse Facebook Party this Thursday, August 20th, for scholarship information and an opportunity to network with spouses in your chosen field!Follow us on Pinterest for more tips!

What tips do you have for spouses hoping to land the job?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Educating the Dandelion: Creating Stability in Education During a PCS

Girl-holding-flagDandelions.  Some people may see a weed, but I see resiliency.

Did you know that the dandelion is the unofficial official flower of the military child?  It’s crazy to think the puffy flower you picked in the backyard as a child represents our military kids, but it does.  I found a comparison of the two and it’s startling how similar they really are in definition.  According to an often-cited anonymous poem:

“The plant puts down roots almost anywhere, and it’s almost impossible to destroy. It’s an unpretentious plant, yet good looking. It’s a survivor in a broad range of climates. Military children bloom everywhere the winds carry them. They are hardy and upright. Their roots are strong, cultivated deeply in the culture of the military, planted swiftly and surely. They’re ready to fly in the breezes that take them to new adventures, new lands, and new friends.”

The description above would be even more fitting if dandelions had to receive an education, change grades, take new tests, learn new curriculum and change schools with every gust of wind. Although our dandelion kids are amazingly resilient, sturdy and strong, they face school transition and education inequities with every permanent change of station (PCS). It’s a mountain of emotion with every move.

There a few important facts to consider when you PCS with school-age children.

There are currently 2,000,000 military-connected children in America:

  • 1,381,584 are ages 4-18 years old.
  • 1,105,267 (over 80%) attend PK-12 public schools.
  • Every school district in the country has military-connected students.
  • Approximately 10-12% of military-connected students are served in special education programs.

Military families move an average of every two to three years, meaning that approximately 500,000 active duty military children change schools every year.

  • 517,734 children in preschool (ages 0-5)
  • 516,324 children in primary school (ages 6-14)
  • 186,883 children in high school or older (ages 15-22)

One change of duty station results in a number of cascading changes for a military child:

A change of address
A change of schools
A change in friends
A change in routines
A change in neighborhoods
A change in activities
A change in housing

This list is not complete by a long shot, particularly without the inclusion of a reference to educational continuity. Even many educators do not understand the educational continuity challenges that military-connected children face.

I have two children. My son has attended three public schools and he’s just eight years old. My daughter is seven and she’s moved five times in her short (and well-travelled) life. My kids are young little dandelions but they have already proven their sturdiness through multiple school changes. I recently had an experience that caused me to change the way I view school transitions resulting from a PCS. I no longer hope things will work out; rather, I ensure things will work out. I leave little to chance.

kids-at-schoolMy son is an atypical learner and has unique educational needs. He does not have an IEP or 504 plan, yet he can be a challenge for many teachers and would easily fall through the cracks in a large classroom. My son’s teachers, counselors and principal in our last assignment in Ohio showed great interest in his learning style and really supported his needs. My husband and I embraced their innovative recommendations, including a one-grade academic acceleration.

My son went through an extensive testing and interview process and we were to be assigned to the location for the next two years or more. His educators promised to continue to support him through elementary school, hand-picking his teachers and enrichment program placements. We pulled the trigger to accelerate him after careful and deliberate discussion. The school staff was extremely supportive – amazing, actually — and gave us the option to “undo” the acceleration if it didn’t work out. He would finish out the last few months of school year in the next higher grade.

Then the unexpected happened. We were notified that we had to move and received PCS orders after my son had completed eight weeks in his new grade. He was just getting through the bumpy part. Not only were we moving unexpectedly, but we were moving overseas, and doing so in less than two months.

“What have I done?” I said to my husband when he broke the news to me.

I was terrified. We were supposed to be in this location for at least two years. I trusted this school and now I had to take the leap of faith that the next school could provide the same exceptional level of support. Of course, there was no guarantee. My dandelion kids were being blown in a new direction and I could only worry where they would land.

I felt betrayed, even angry that this transient life we lead might negatively impact my children’s education. I was mad that I couldn’t see this coming; after all, I’m a seasoned military spouse of ten years. I was determined to make it right, to level the playing field for my children and others. It was me, not them, who signed up for this military life, and it was my job to advocate for their education.

A close friend who happens to be a school psychologist and a mother of two dandelion kids helped me create an education binder for my children – a tool to communicate my children’s educational needs and history. We began with my son’s educational binder. I filled the binder with all the information the school counselor needed to place him with the best teacher for him, enroll him in the right programs for him and implement the appropriate accommodations for him. This binder allowed his teacher to know my son even before he walked into her classroom. He was quickly enrolled and identified for enrichment programs and the school asked for occupational therapy evaluations within just a few weeks.

This transition was so much smoother than his previous experiences and I felt as if he was ready to learn on the first day of school. It was an amazing feeling and I credit the education binder; it neatly organized and presented who my child was as a student and conveyed his needs in a way counselors and teachers understood.

I’ve given this binder a special name that reflects my mission: the Operation Dandelion Kids (ODK) Education Binder. The binder does more than exhibit a transcript – it shares the child’s educational story and includes:

  • Work samples,
  • Report cards,
  • Standardized test scores,
  • Transcripts highlighting different curricula at different schools,
  • Teacher conference documentation,
  • Teacher-to-teacher communication,
  • Notes deployments and homecomings, and
  • A picture of my child so counselors and teachers can put a face with a name.

This binder is as professional as it is personal – it’s a military child’s educational life story.

Creating an education binder for your child will help you organize their records, advocate for their needs and communicate their educational story. I want my kids to embrace all the positives of being a new kid in school – the sense of adventure, feeling of excitement when making new friends, and innate enthusiasm for learning and joining new programs. I want to minimize the negative aspects of being the new kid: having to make new friends, learning a new school layout, and absorbing new curriculum. I want my kids to be ready to learn on day one–not lose six weeks to three months spinning their wheels in the wrong classroom while awaiting yet another new set of test results.

When their education falls into place so does their social life. When they are learning, they are thriving academically and socially. And when they are thriving, I can settle down too.

I know I’m not the only military-connected parent that experiences a wave of panic as PCS season draws near and I think of my children having to change schools again. We’re in this together and together as a military community we can help each other through these transitions, educate school personnel and support our little dandelions as they ride the winds of military life.

Visit FamiliesOnTheHomeFront.com to download your free ODK Education Binder and learn how Operation Dandelion Kids will help your child through school and life transitions. We offer parenting advice, school psychologist-approved recommendations and even school and PCS checklists.

Posted by Stacy Huisman, Air Force spouse and Managing Director for FamiliesOnTheHomefront.com

2 Ways to Make Your MilKid’s Homework Easier in the Final Semester!

Children-in-classroomAmid the doldrums of the end of winter and the spring forward time change, students struggle with the start of the second semester. Once the snow melts, however, all thoughts wander first towards spring break, a reprieve from the drudgery of long school days and homework, and then to the lure of a long summer break – the ultimate escape from the classroom.

If vacation time occupies your mind right now, you’re not alone. Even the most dedicated teachers and tutors are already scanning cruise brochures and plotting their Space A travel adventures.

For military children, it’s even harder. With the average military child attending up 9 schools over the course of his or her academic career, the end of the school year most often means a PCS, and the end of time with friends at that duty station. Your student still has several months to go, though, and despite their adamant independence—yes, you know they can do it themselves!—they need you right now.

It’s time to make sure your student learns to finish the semester strong!

Here are two key ways you can help your child prepare to power through the final semester.

1. Help avoid visual distractions. If their desk is messy, help them clean it. For a visual or hands on learner, a messy desk is a reflection of how organized the rest of their schoolwork looks. If their desk isn’t neatly arranged, then it’s a sure bet you may find the missing homework assignments bringing down their grade somewhere at the bottom of their book bag. Once organized, have your child take those assignments to the teacher to see if they can at least earn a late grade. If nothing else, this presents an opportunity for your child to practice self-advocacy, a skill they’ll need long past their grade school days.

2. Reduce interaction with as many electronic devices as possible. That means no television, no music with lyrics, no texting, and no social media. It’s unrealistic to expect students to turn off all electronics, as most students, particularly those in middle school and beyond, need the internet to access homework websites and conduct research. However, it is possible to make sure that those devices are used for their stated purpose.

The following website plugins and apps may help:

  • FocusWriter allows students to really focus on writing that essay for class. It locks down all other programs, leaving only a writing document available for student access. It even allows users to set a writing goal, either for time or for word count.
  • Focus Booster helps teach your student productivity skills through time management. For younger students, set time goals of 10-15 minutes for concentrated work. Build up their study efforts in increments of 5 minutes. High school students who don’t have any other learning limitations should be able to study for up to 50 minutes at a time.
  • Cold Turkey also helps with productivity by blocking social media and games. It helps students schedule time for breaks, too.
  • Focus@Will helps define music for reading, music for studying, café noise, or my favorite, water sounds. Some music can actually facilitate studying for all learners, but it’s important to distinguish what type of music works best for your little learner. Regardless of what he tells you, though, music with lyrics distracts even the most conscientious learners, and if your child is an auditory learner, forget it!

While your kiddo is engaged in one of his productive study periods, you can break out the stack of vacation guides you picked up at the ITT office on base after all. If you have executed these changes with your child, then you’re on your way to a successful end of the school year and a well-earned summer break!

How do you help keep your kids encouraged and engaged at the end of the school year? Share your tips with us!

KarinaGHeadshot(Square)-(2-of-2)Posted by Karina Gafford, Air Force spouse, founder of Tutors By Base, and blogger at Thoughts on Tutoring

NMFA Scholarships Make It Easy… Even in the “Hard” Majors!

alexis-lorbeckiEducation is very important to me. I always said that after graduating high school, I wanted to go straight to college. As a military spouse desiring to pursue higher education, I was always worried I wouldn’t be able to find a college near my husband’s base. I was also concerned with being able to afford college (who isn’t?), and even being smart enough to stay in college. Even though my dreams of continuing my education were surrounded with worry, one thing was always certain: I was going to make it to medical school, and eventually become a doctor.

I am majoring in Biochemistry at Armstrong State University. I know what you’re thinking: “How hard and time consuming that must be!”

Yes, it’s very hard and you do need to study a lot in order to do well, but I don’t think people have a good understanding on what all of these “hard” majors, like Chemistry, Engineering, or Biology, really have to offer. If military spouses find out just a little information about these different degrees, and learn how they can get started and what they need to do, I think more of us will become interested in these fields. With a little time and effort, these “hard” majors are very attainable!

I was originally a Biology major, because I love learning about how the body works and all of the components that make it work. I wanted to learn as much as I could! But just last year, my school started to offer a Bachelor in Science Degree in Biochemistry. I love biology, but I really enjoy chemistry, too. Being in a lab, working on experiments is thrilling for me! I knew that changing my major to Biochemistry was the perfect way to combine all the things I love to learn about. I’m able to have both chemistry and biology aspects in my degree, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Being selected to receive a scholarship from the National Military Family Association (NMFA) has given me the chance to stay in school and follow my dreams of getting my Biochemistry degree. Without that undergraduate degree, my goal of getting into, and finishing, medical school would be a little harder to reach.

I found out about the National Military Family Association Military Spouse Scholarships through a military wives Facebook page—all of the wives have spouses in my husband’s company. One of the wives posted about how she found out about NMFA’s scholarships, and she highly recommended any of us who were in college to apply for them! The best part about NMFA’s spouse scholarships is that the application process is simple, and easy to find!

I’m so happy I decided to apply for these scholarships. It has made such a difference for me and my family. Even if you think you won’t get picked, take the time to apply for YOU. Pursuing your education may be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself!

I’ll even suggest joining me in the Biochemistry field!

Posted by Alexis Lorbecki, NMFA Scholarship Recipient and Army Spouse, Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, GA