We Should Help Veterans Where They Need It: Schools and Colleges

With growing numbers of veterans returning from overseas and transitioning out of the armed services, the Veterans Administration is falling behind on a number of metrics, including the basic need to process vets waiting for benefits. The growing backlog of veterans waiting for help reflects on the U.S. as a national shame, and the VA is not showing signs of being ready to adapt with innovative forms of outreach, development and commitment to the men and women who served the U.S. valiantly, whether they spent their entire service based in the U.S., or endured multiple tours overseas.

A particularly stark example arises in the case of an obvious site for interventions and services: schools and colleges. Many veterans attend college after leaving the armed services, taking advantage of their GI Bill benefits to access educational opportunities. Paired with military experience, education can help veterans prepare for the civilian workplace and develop marketable skills that will serve them well in the years to come — but they still need VA services to succeed.

Veterans in college environments can face issues like ongoing health problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, and trouble with developing study skills and life skills; issues like exploitative lending targeting veterans, for example, are ongoing in many parts of the United States. Providing veterans’ centers on campuses would be an obvious way to help vets access services easily and efficiently as part of their college experience, easing the transition into the civilian world and helping veterans achieve higher completion rates. The dropout rate for veterans is extremely high, making it clear that the services provided in educational settings aren’t adequate to their needs.

Thus, services like the City College of San Francisco’s veterans center could make a huge difference for veterans struggling in school and having trouble with their lives. Staffed by social work and psychiatric providers, the clinic helps vets navigate the college experience and access services at off-site VA locations. Brilliant, right? Bringing services to people directly in their communities is one of the best ways to ensure that they actually use those services.

If you think this is an innovative pilot program by the VA, you’d be wrong; City College pushed for the center and was the driving source behind its development. Even though it’s performing very well and offering a valuable service to veterans on campus, it’s not the brainchild of the VA, and the administration is moving slowly when it comes to getting it out of the early stages, just as it’s lagging on other services for veterans:

The initiative remains in the pilot stage, with a $2.8 million annual budget. Funds go only to schools where both the local VA and a college administrator express interest, not necessarily to those with the greatest needs. At nearly all schools with the largest veteran populations, the VA is providing no health services.

Overall, 6,000 veterans have had access to such centers, a fraction of those who need the services, and a fraction of those leaving the armed services. This is something that needs to change, and quickly, because veterans are struggling significantly in school; in addition to having a high attrition rate, they’re also prone to behavioral outbursts, difficulty completing courses, trouble integrating in school and difficulty establishing safe living conditions. Simple interventions like these centers can make the difference between life and death for vets with psychiatric needs, or they can differentiate between success and failure for those who need some extra support while they get on their feet.

There’s another benefit to making campuses veteran-friendly: it encourages more veterans to enroll, and creates a culture of mutual support. As veterans exchange stories and tips, they create a strong social network that can help them succeed in both school and life, which can be a powerful part of their transition. With such win-win balances, the VA’s decision to delay the rollout of such services on a more extensive nation-wide level is puzzling, and troubling: do we really value vets so little?

Photo credit: Beverly.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

R Susan Stecks
RS Stecks4 years ago

I have a real issue with our government regarding this issue. The people in the military risk their lives to protect our country, people of the US, yet, the government of the US doesn't give them the proper respect, appreciation, recognition they deserve. What would the government of the US do if there weren't anyone to protect our country and our people? It doesn't make since to me that we support other countries and provide for other countries, but our government doesn't honer, respect the people who protect us. Shame on the government for their lack of respect and caring for those who fight to protect their bums to live a life of wealth and health. Shame on the government for turning a blind eye. How can they go to bed knowing that they are protected and yet do very little to protect and help those who are protecting them. Those who protect our country are good people and deserve the best that life has. They have earned the right to learn and be educated.They have earned the right to free education, they have earned the right to a life of health and happiness.

Angela G.
Angela Gardner4 years ago

I like the idea that the City College of San Fransico has for placing a student veteran center on it's campus to help them get the support they need. We need more outside the box ideas to help our veterans returning or leaving the military.
Unfortunately, Congress in consumed with deficit disaster syndrome and is cutting services including those for veterans while at the same time protecting low tax rates and tax payer subsidies for corporate america and the rich. That's why our veterans are not getting the care and services they need.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you S. E. Smith, for Sharing this!

Spencer Y.
Spencer Young4 years ago

Education is the only way America can regain her glory. If we'd stop being the world's police and building military bases where people don't want us,we could use that money to pay and better educate our own. Perhaps then we solve problems with our brains instead of our might and the world would be better for all,

Will Rogers
Will Rogers4 years ago

David F. I am not only hating america, I hate any country including my own that chooses war over peace. Anyone! Who defends war! No matter how patriotic it makes them feel, is a idiot. What David F, is your excuse? Is it just jingoism that caused your knee jerk reaction to defend something that is obviously wrong? And what the hell are doing with that deer you old Texan redneck you. You support the army? Why? Is it the Texan hobby of getting your gun off that has addled your brain. You need to smoke something instead of reaching for your gun and believing that war is the answer, the way to Peace and prosperity and happiness (meaning, no war) is not found through the barrel of a gun - I know you believe it is. Do you join the armed forces because you are educated or uneducated? Do people actually choose to go to war? Or is it some genetic aberration that makes a sadist? War is not a natural condition, it is a perversity forced on us by either, someone attacking us, as in self defence. Or us blindly following the whims of our crazy leaders. Either way, keep talking David F, you are doing your state proud, Yeehaw! Sho we nuff fight peeples abroad that say bad about merica, we sho nuff like war an guns to kill peeple who disargue wid us. Yeehaw!

Mark Vaughan
Mark Vaughan4 years ago

Sarah J. I hear you, but I have to tell you, I go to school in Texas, and I have a lot of classmates that match your description who have never seen combat. It's not just veterans who need help in this crazy world. And frankly, the positive aspects of taking control of their lives and moving forwards towards a better future helps many veterans cope with the PTSD.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers4 years ago

I don't get it. These people go abroad to kill people for money, they know the risk. They destroy people's lives just because politicians say so, they destroy countries while pretending they're doing them a favour (Vietnam, Iraq etc) leaving guns and weapons everywhere! And they expect love and sympathy and care? They're mercenaries for f--ks sake! Paid murderers, uniformed thugs with no accountability and yet you perverts want to reward them? They're not heroes, heroes save lives, heroes make the world a better place. In what way do soldiers make the world a better place, and when I say world, I mean the global world, not like the World Series football that only America can win, but more like the Olympic world where everyone takes part. I just wish that these police states and militaristic nations would stop insisting on pushing their war philosophies and their glorification of war on everyone else. This is one area in which North Korea and the United States are identical.

GGma Sheila D.
Sheila D4 years ago

Read with sadness that our country's politicians won't do more to help returning vets assimilate better, especially since it was them who sent these young people to an undeclared war in two countries.

june t.
reft h4 years ago

education is a great idea, I'm all for it. However - for what jobs?