For Veterans of the Global War on Terror navigating through the maze of benefits can seem impossible. As a current Student Veteran, I know first-hand working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies can be overwhelming.
It should not be this difficult and unfortunately, applying for benefits seems trivial to deeper issues faced by military Veterans. Many Veterans sacrificed mind, body, and soul with returning to civilian life always in mind. For some, it was the dream of attending college and the opportunity of a better life that was their motivation to carry on. Veterans should have peace of mind knowing they are making the best career decision regarding their new future. That decision could mean a number of things such as, choosing the best University to attend, understanding the medical assistance offered at the local VA, learning how to promote oneself in a competitive civilian workforce, or simply feeling the need to connect with men and women who understand the sacrifice that given without a word having to be spoken.
The fact is that too many Veterans find they do not have the time to try to figure out how to request for their benefits or are even unaware of what they are entitled to in the first place. This problem is felt nationwide. For the communities that are lucky enough to have local Veterans Centers, many find that the biggest problem is not having the daily time or the resources to do get done.
Organizations that are successful in aiding Veterans find that their return on the investment is undeniable. Compared to those with no military experience, Veterans have a leg up in maturity, confidence, leadership, integrity, as well as the ability to receive, understand, and follow through with direction. Enabling Veterans to hone their service skills benefits the community at large as it finds itself the recipient of dedicated and selfless new members of the workforce. A few bold Veterans organizations are beginning to pull themselves away from the pack. Places like Marywood University, Penn State Mont Alto, University of Central Florida, and Florida State University are being recognized nationally for raising the bar in catering to Student Veterans’ unique needs and potential.
Fortunately, here at home, with the region’s rich tradition of military service past and present, our own West Chester University is looking to capitalize on this opportunity. In keeping with its aggressive commitment on “leading others into the future” (President’s report, Building on Excellence) the University supported the WCU Student Veterans Group in hosting the 2015 Veterans Educational Forum that took place Saturday, April 25th.
The forum was open to all Veterans, Student Veteran Organizations, College Educators, and Veteran Service Organizations throughout the region. Guest speakers included Brigadier General (Retired) Jerry G. Beck Jr., Dr. Rebecca Weidensaul Drexel University Veterans Coordinator, and Congressman Ryan Costello.
The theme of the conference was “Connecting Veterans to their Network – One Veteran at a Time.” The conference provided attendees with resources and information on:
-Transitioning military skills to the civilian job market
-Best practices for college educators to serve the Student Veteran community
-Recruiting, retaining, and graduating your Veteran population
-Developing and managing an effective Student Veteran Organization
-Understanding VA benefits, support services, and other available resources
-Recognizing the impact that military service can have on a Veteran’s life
Pictured left to right WCU Student Veteran Group President Patrick Dupuy, Congressman Ryan Costello, and WCU Student Veteran Group Vice President Kahn Wiedis.
West Chester University Student Veterans Group plans on using this forum to get the help facilitate information to potential, current, and past Student Veterans; as well as listen to ideas from organizations for areas of potential growth. There is a need, for the individual, their families, and the community to support Veterans returning home. West Chester University has taken this need seriously and is proud to be carrying the flag.
Kelby Hershey is a third year student majoring in history. He can be reached at KH835979@wcupa.edu.