Student veterans sound off on college benefits after service

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Navigating college is a process, both financially and academically.

For veterans this process has evolved in the recent years with the signing of multiple GI Bills, and both state and national programs.

Senior Financial Aid Specialist Lakhana Saini makes clear that the most vital step for any student is to follow Delta’s five Steps to Success Checklist available online.

For veterans, however, applying for benefits is the primary step when first entering a college setting.

Depending on the factors of date of active duty entry and whether veterans meet the allotted time frame of eligibility, financial programs include the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation, fee waivers for dependents, along with the new GI Bill 2.0 signed into law by President Barack Obama at the start of the year and is set to be implemented this fall.

For Rene Romero; retired Air Force, in his second year at Delta; the financial support available after getting out of the military is what initially had him enlist.

“I joined the military for school,” Romero said.

These specific forms of aid are not exclusively for veterans of the Armed Forces.

Along with retired military service members, those eligible for such resources also include active duty, as well as dependents of those who are, or that have served.

Benefits aside, Saini said all avenues — including applying for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Pell grants, loans, and work study along with continual utilization of available scholarships — are all available to veterans.

“[Veteran students] tend to think that they’re double dipping; however, it’s not,” she said.

Romero is the exception to Saini’s observation.

“Take advantage of it all. Life is unexpected,” he said.

Non-financial resources include Delta’s Veteran Resource Center which opened in spring 2010.

As a non-profit organization, the center gets most of its community support for fundraising through the help of American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Because the resource center is not a club, elements of fundraising carry restrictions in terms of on-campus support.

As of this semester the center has seen more than 100 veterans utilize the services which include tutoring and available computers, as well as peer interaction with other veterans in turn allowing for what many believe to be a better transition into civilian life.
The center holds bi-monthly meetings, that are welcome to all.

Programs include “Troops to College,” a state-wide initiative implemented by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 as a means to keep veterans informed about their educational options.

Working alongside the program this year is the Department of Veteran Affairs in conjunction with the Employment Development Department Office’s “California Operation Welcome Home Program.”

With an employment officer available Mondays and Wednesdays in the Budd 310 resource center, its main objective is to both inform veterans of benefits available, as well as help them navigate the job arena.

In an online address for the “Troops to College” program, Schwarzenegger shared his regard: “With your military experience, and a college degree your opportunities are boundless.”