VITAL Puts Psychologists on Campuses for Student Veterans

vital

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has deployed a contingent of mental health helpers to dozens of college campuses across the country to assist student veterans.

The program, Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership, (VITAL) is designed to make it easier for student veterans to get help transitioning from the military to the classroom.

While veterans and military service members arrive on campus with a wealth of knowledge, strengths, and experiences typically not seen within the traditional student population, they may also arrive with unique challenges. Many student veterans report difficulty adjusting to school after deployment, difficulty managing military versus civilian roles and identity, and difficulty relating to non-veterans.

“VITAL focuses on supporting veterans to address any issues or barriers — internal or external — so they may meet their educational goals and be successful in school,” says Kai Chitaphong, VITAL’s national director. “All of our VITAL coordinators are licensed clinical psychologists or social workers who, depending on the student veteran’s preference, can provide clinical counseling on campus or refer them to our closest VA medical center or community-based outpatient clinic for care.”

Giving schools tools they can use to truly welcome and support our returning service members is one way to repay that debt we owe our veterans, by making sure we are providing our veterans and military families with an education worthy of their exceptional talents and experience.

The program has grown from five locations its first year in 2011 to more than 100 colleges and universities, 23 medical centers and 16 Veterans Integrated Services Network locations.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Veteran Student Tips for Using GI Bill Benefits

post 911 gi bill

By Debbie Gregory.

The GI Bill program provides the most generous school benefits paid to veteranss since the original bill was enacted in 1944. But many veteran students are getting off to a rocky start when it came to pursuing a college degree.

For-profit colleges have been popular among veterans, in part, because of offerings in skilled trades and flexibility such as online classes. But many of these schools have been called out for their treatment of veteran and active-duty military students, as well as their aggressive recruiting tactics.

The for-profit sector has among the highest student loan default rates and lowest graduation rates in higher education.

So for potential veteran students, there are three steps you should take when considering a for-profit school:

Make use of the GI Bill Comparison Tool: Veterans and active-duty military looking to understand how their benefits will apply to college costs can plug their information into the GI Bill Comparison Tool.

The GI Bill Comparison will let the student know if their potential college, university or vocational is a for-profit, public or private university, how much it costs, whether it meets the required guidelines to receive federal funding, how many GI Bill students there are, whether there is a student veteran group, a VetSuccess on campus, etc. For students worried about predatory practices at an institution, the school summary page includes the number of complaints against the institution and “caution flags,” which indicate that the school is under increased regulatory or legal scrutiny.

Be vigilant when it comes to any paperwork related to education benefits and any other financial aid. If something is promised, get it in writing. Be sure to know the different funding options, and what is a gift, and what is a loan.

Ask, ask ask! Don’t be shy to ask what percentage of their students find jobs in their chosen fields, if your units will transfer, what resources are available to veteran students, etc.

Your GI Bill benefits are just that; YOURS. Make sure you get the most out of the benefit that you worked so hard and risked so much to secure.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

In-state Tuition for Veterans and Their Families

instate tuition1

By Debbie Gregory.

In-state tuition rates to public colleges and universities will now be available to all recent U.S. military veterans and their families throughout the country.

In honor of Veterans Day, the White House made the announcement, reiterating President Obama’s “steadfast commitment” to our military members and veterans.

The president is also calling on Congress to move forward on three pieces of legislation to help improve veterans’ education.

According to Cecilia Muñoz, the Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, “These pieces of legislation will really ensure that veterans have the opportunities and assistance to … realize the American dream.”

The first bill would heighten standards for schools receiving G.I. Bill funds. The second bill is aimed at protecting G.I. Bill benefits for veterans whose schools close mid-term. The third bill would increase regulation of for-profit colleges, many of which target veterans.

“What we think this does is ramp up the accountability” of those schools, Munoz said, adding that it ensures “we are requiring a high-quality education for veterans that have served us well.”

Additionally, the VA has revamped the GI Bill Comparison Tool, another way to help Veterans obtain and use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The GI Bill® Comparison Tool allows Veterans to enter their military status, the GI Bill benefit that they are thinking of using, their Cumulative Post 9-11 Active Duty Service , and the name of the school that they wish to research. The tool then provides a list of the schools that match. By clicking on the school’s name, the user can then read the data that the tool provides, including the amount of tuition and fees, the amount of Monthly Allowance for Housing (MAH) the student will receive, and the amount of book stipend.

The GI Bill Comparison will let the student know if their potential college, university or vocational school meets the required guidelines to receive federal funding, and whether it is a Yellow Ribbon School, how many GI Bill students there are. It also specifies whether there is a student veteran group, a VetSuccess on campus, etc.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Setting Up Veteran Student and Military Student Success

successcenter

By Debbie Gregory.

All too often, veteran students and military students (active duty and reservists) find themselves struggling to succeed in higher education. For some, the pitfalls might be financial, while for others, it might be the challenges of dealing with physical or psychological injuries.

Returning to higher education for veteran and military students can cause added stress to an already stressful transition for those who have been away from academics for many years.

Also, the manner in which GI Bill benefits are processed, arriving well after the semester has started, can be a huge stumbling block.

One huge advantage is having a well-informed veterans’ resource center on campus.

Many veterans are entering higher education after a prolonged break from school. There are programs that can assist in preparing them.

The Wounded Warrior Project’s TRACK program is the first education center in the nation designed specifically for wounded service members. As part of the cohort model, Wounded Warrior Project Alumni join other wounded service members who have shared similar experiences. They enter and complete the program as a team. Through this 12-month program, wounded service men and women take part in a whole-life approach to education, earn college credits that can be applied toward a degree, and gain valuable practical experience through an externship.

The Warrior-Scholar Project is an academic boot camp aimed at veterans who plan on attending or transferring to a 4-year college. Funded by foundations and private donors, the one and two-week programs are immersive and demanding. Veterans run the sessions, which are taught by university professors and graduate students. The curriculum is designed to help participants prepare to tackle the reading lists of rigorous college courses.

Veterans Upward Bound is a federal program run by the U.S. Department of Education that helps veterans prepare to be college students.

Veterans who come to college do so with a certain level of intensity, mission focus, discipline and structure from military life that is different from the mindset of traditional students. Anything that can be done to set these veteran students and military students up for success benefits us all.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Warrior-Scholar Project Preps Transitioning Students

WSP

By Debbie Gregory.

Military veterans have more life experience and maturity than the average traditional-aged college student. With that said, they can still benefit from extra guidance as they make the transition to a residential college environment often designed for 18-year-olds

Non-profit Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) is an academic boot camp aimed at veterans who plan on attending or transferring to a 4-year college. Funded by foundations and private donors, the one and two-week programs are immersive and demanding. Veterans run the sessions, which are taught by university professors and graduate students. The curriculum is designed to help participants prepare to tackle the reading lists of rigorous college courses.

The project began at Yale in 2012 with 9 participants. Since then, the boot camps have spread, first to Harvard University and then to the University of Michigan, Vassar, UNC Chapel Hill, Syracuse, Cornell, Georgetown, U of OK, U of So. CA, and U of Chicago.

The application requests information about the prospective students’ military experience, academic background and plans for college, and includes a series of short essay questions.

WSP is now accepting applications for its 2016 academic boot camps. The programs are open to enlisted veterans and transitioning current service members who plan to enroll in or transfer into a four-year undergraduate program. With the exception of transportation, WSP’s generous donors cover all program costs for accepted students. If you would like to apply online, click here. Applications will be accepted until March 14, 2016, and all students will receive responses by early April, 2016. Course dates and locations will be determined by January, 2016.

Also, for universities interested in hosting a bootcamp, the application for new host institutions is now open. Please find additional information on becoming a Warrior-Scholar Project Host Institution click here.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Bridging the Gap from Service to School

wsp

By Debbie Gregory.

The Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) has been empowering Veterans to realize their full potential as students.

WSP is now accepting applications for its 2016 academic boot camps. These programs are held during the summer at top universities nationwide and aim to facilitate enlisted veterans’ transition from the military to college.

The Warrior-Scholar Project believes that military Veterans not only possess the necessary skills to succeed on the campuses of prestigious universities, but that they are capable of being student leaders among their classmates. Despite the fact that many Veterans are several years removed from any form of academic endeavors, the founders of the Warrior-Scholar Project believe that the motivation to achieve mission accomplishment, honed through their military service, drives Veterans to academic success.

Through the program, participants learn skills like “ninja reading,” how to structure academic papers and the art of self-editing. But more importantly, the program breathes new life into these unconventional students’ academic dreams.

The programs are open to enlisted veterans and transitioning current service members who plan to enroll in or transfer into a four-year undergraduate program. WSP donors cover all program costs for accepted students, except transportation.

Co-founded by Jesse Reising, Chris Howell and Nick Rugoff, the idea for the Warrior-Scholar Project was sparked when Reising, a Marine Corps Officer Candidate, was recuperating from an injury he sustained during a football game between Yale and Harvard. One hit ended Reising’s military career. But the support that he received during his recovery prompted Reising and his co-founders to provide similar support for the men and women who served and are now using their Veteran education benefits.

The intensive two week-long workshop includes:

  • Academic reading and writing
  • Adapting to changed social circumstances
  • Translating skills used and acquired in the military to the college environment

Interested student veterans can start the application process online. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, and students may be asked to complete an additional phone interview. Applications will be accepted until March 14, 2016, and all students will receive responses by early April 2016.

 

Some For-Profit Colleges See GI Bill as Cash Cow: Military Connection

Some For-Profit Colleges See GI Bill as Cash Cow

By Debbie Gregory.

In 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill significantly increased the higher education benefits available to individuals who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces after September 10, 2001. In the transition back to civilian life, many veterans are finding their way back to school to begin or continue their higher education and career plans.

With that said, the choice of school may be surprisingly complex. Economically, most students find the expense of school to be daunting. At the same time, many for-profit colleges are finding the way to stay open is to accept veterans – and their benefits.

Since 2009, $8.2 billion has been collected by for-profit colleges. As many as 30% of U.S. veterans have enrolled in college with the GI Bill.

The guarantee of funds from veteran students is appealing to these colleges, but for-profit schools have been accused of aggressively targeting veterans to enroll. Many of the schools have been hiring veterans as recruiters, hoping to appeal to the potential students’ sense of camaraderie.

For-profit schools are required by a federal student aid regulation, known as the 90/10 rule, to assure that at least 10 percent of their revenue is derived from non-federal sources. With tuitions rising, and the majority of students who are able to afford these costs being comprised primarily of veterans, this ratio is harder and harder to meet. Some schools, such as Corinthian College, have not able to maintain that ratio and have been forced to close their doors.

While students are acquiring the training they seek to pursue careers, veterans are advised to review the options presented by for-profit schools, such as whether their credits will matriculate to other institutions if they need to transfer. Veterans may find for-profit schools offer good trade skills, but may realize that some of them are up to four times the cost of an in-state, public school.

Veterans may want to keep these points in mind in case the school does have a risk of closing, for they will want to be in the position of continuing their education, keeping adequate resources, while still focusing on their career goals.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Addressing Mental Healthcare Stigma: Military Connection

Addressing Mental Healthcare Stigma

By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon and VA are becoming more proactive in promoting mental health treatment to troops and veterans, but many still refuse to get care, concerned about stigma, their jobs and psychiatric medications

Negative perceptions of mental health conditions and treatment continue to keep troops and veterans from seeking care, but the issue is larger than just the stigma of a diagnosis; it is complicated by concerns over keeping their careers and not wanting to be medicated, panelists said.

Various mental health groups are diligently working to destigmatize mental health issues. Among the groups that Military Connection works with are the Campaign to Change Direction, Give an Hour, and the Soldiers Project, just to name a few.

While stigma regarding mental health conditions is not unique to the military, it does seem to hit the military and veteran communities harder, perhaps due to the culture.

The number of first-time mental health diagnoses among active-duty members has risen steadily, from 132,079 in 2000 to 232,184 in 2012, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.

And mental health diagnoses are the third most common diagnoses at VA behind musculoskeletal ailments and ill-defined conditions.

Another concern regarding treatment is fear of taking medication. While many patients can take medications without experiencing bad side effects, some antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs have side effects such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, lethargy and more, and troops are hesitant to take anything that affects their game.

The government has quadrupled its mental health programs in the past six years. But it can do more, the experts said, to include promoting mental health care and understanding among primary care physicians, who can serve as liaisons between patients and mental health providers, promote community services and collaborate with community and private health organizations.

According to Navy Capt. Michael Colston, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, mental health treatment must become accepted by the mainstream.

“Mental health care is health care.  As for the self-stigma, we need to do research on that to determine how to fix it,” Colston said.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

VA Waives Choice Act Resident-Rate Requirements: Military Connection

Choice Act

By Debbie Gregory.

In order to make it easier for veterans and their families to receive their GI Bill benefits where they choose, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald has delayed the provisions of Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act). This action will ensure all GI Bill students are able to continue training at their chosen institutions.

The time allotted for states and territories to comply with Section 702 of the Choice Act is challenging for some states and schools, due in part to the necessary legislative and/or policy changes.  This limited waiver by Secretary McDonald covers programs that are not in compliance for all terms beginning prior to January 1, 2016, in order to allow time for non-compliant states and territories to make the requisite legislative and policy changes.

Under Section 702, the VA must disapprove education programs at public institutions for Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty (MGIB-AD) benefits if a school charges certain individuals tuition and fees in excess of the resident rate for terms beginning after July 1, 2015.

The current maximum tuition benefit is just over $20,000, so veterans have to dig into their pocket for any university that charges more than that. Out-of-state tuition at public universities often exceeds $20,000 a year.

“Our military members and their families make sacrifices that require them to pack up and move with little notice,” said McDonald.  “They shouldn’t be penalized after they leave military service by burdensome residency requirements.  This waiver will allow students to continue receiving the GI Bill benefits they’ve earned as states work to comply with this important law.”

Many states already offer In-state tuition to any veteran, but there are 18 states that will be affected by this new law. Those are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, D.C., Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon program grant veterans additional funds to help make up the difference between in-state and out-of-state fees. However, the program has limitations and special requirements, meaning not all veterans will qualify for funding that covers all their expenses.

For more information on GI Bill resident-rate requirements and to see which states comply, visit the GI Bill website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/702.asp.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Intermediate Care Tech Program For Veterans: Military Connection

military connection: medic

By Debbie Gregory.

While service members are often assured that the skills gained in the military can transition into civilian employment, some qualifications do not immediately translate. Examples of this are former military personnel who served as Army medics, Air Force medical technicians, and Navy and Coast Guard hospital corpsmen. While their training in the military was quite extensive, it does not readily meet the qualifications in civilian medical fields.

Recognizing that the skills of these highly trained individuals were not being utilized, the Veterans Health Administration began a program in 2012 to provide a stepping stone for these veterans to bridge to a civilian job in the medical field. Intermediate care technicians (ICT) have become valuable assets to doctors and hospital teams.

Corpsmen and medics typically have the training and experience equivalent to a second-year medical resident. However, they do not meet the qualifications for a civilian physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner, and no reciprocity for their credentials are recognized in such degree programs.

“Former corpsmen and military medics don’t fit in when they get out of the service,” said Dr. Michael Bellino, ER doctor at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, IL. “The outside world doesn’t have a job that keeps up their unique and advanced skills and pays well enough, so they end up stepping down.

“This [program] is a perfect thing to enhance the skill set they gained in combat, or in the service, so they can go into a PA program or become a doctor,” Bellino said.

Bellino understands first-hand the benefits of utilizing ICT employees. His team includes US Army veteran Joe Carney, an Army medic with four combat tours under his belt. As a veteran new to the civilian job market, Carney was turned away by five hospitals, saying he was overqualified for the regular technician jobs, but did not have the civilian certifications to be hired for higher-level positions.

As an employee through the ICT program, Carney has transitioned what was his typical day, saving service members injured on the battlefield, to performing many tasks critical to the care of patients in FHCC’s emergency room. His duties include draining and suturing wounds, starting IVs and inserting catheters, conducting medical exams and doing electrocardiograms.

Carney is now close to completing the prerequisites to enter the physician assistant (PA) program at Rosalind Franklin University Chicago Medical School.

“He’s an absolutely invaluable member of the staff,” said Dr. Jeffrey Dubnow, head of the Lovell FHCC emergency room. “He’s qualified to do many things, which is a great help to the doctors. We’re very happy with him.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Intermediate Care Tech Program For Veterans: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory