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.