The Cougar Chronicle

Veterans Center hold seminar to aid student veterans

Chase Spear, Staff Writer

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On Nov. 16, the CSUSM Veterans Center hosted a seminar known as the Vet Net Ally Program, which is designed to help faculty raise awareness about the needs of military veterans

attending CSUSM.

 

The program was hosted by the Veterans Center staff, including retired Marine Corps veteran,

Moses Maddox, retired Naval officer, Patricia Reily and Navy veteran, Jamie Rangel.

 

The Vet Net Ally Program started in 2009 at CSU Long Beach. It was designed to help educate members of the university, foster a supportive campus atmosphere for veterans and establish a

network of allies for veteran students.

 

Reily said one of the main goals of the Vet Net Ally Program is to “let people know what’s happening with vets on our campus.” Reily shared her experience during the Vietnam War era, a period when veterans were verbally abused and even spat on by citizens.. As a staff member of the Veterans Center, Reily also strived to dispel any Hollywood stereotypes associated with veterans on campus. She wanted participants to understand that “vets are not crazy.”

 

Maddox said that the basic mission of the Veterans Center is to “holistically engage military-connected students to achieve ‘Grad Day + 1’ goals.” The center helps veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life graduate from college, and get them started in their new careers.

 

According to Rangel, “California is ranked number one for veterans.” In San Diego County alone, veterans make up more than 13 percent of the population, which is the highest of any county in the nation. 536 students at CSUSM are veterans and make up about 13 percent of the entire student population.

 

The Veterans Center staff assist veterans and help those who are going through rough times.

 

“Everyone has their reasons,” said Maddox.

 

He said that reasons for joining vary from patriotism, adventure, family tradition, change of environment, rite of passage, career preparation or gaining economic incentives. Maddox joined the Marine Corps in 1999 and was deployed two years later following the events of 9/11.

 

“Everyone who joined after 9/11 knew what they were getting into,” he said.

 

According to the hosts, one of the hardest challenges that a veteran will face is transitioning from

active duty to the civilian lifestyle. Maddox said that some veterans take pride in their service

and may choose to stay silent about it. “Let them go through their transition,” said Maddox.

When becoming a college student, it is important for a veteran to choose a major, select their

classes and focus on being a fellow student on campus. “They have to be active in their

transition,” said Maddox.

 

Maddox said that the California State University, University California, and California Community College systems are what help veterans transition from the

service into a civilian career. According to Maddox, the university is the “birthplace of civilian

identification.” The CSUSM Veterans Center aids transitioning veterans by helping them discover what they are passionate about. “We are that bridge,” said Maddox. “All of us play a

part.”

 

Vicki Hernandez, another faculty member at the Veterans Center, said that there are some potential education benefits that veterans can receive. One of the biggest federal benefits is

the post 9/11 G.I. Bill. She said  the post 9/11 G.I. Bill helps pay tuition,

housing and other campus fees but will not cover parking fees. The G.I. Bill only pays 100

percent coverage if the student is full time. Hernandez explains that students “only have 36

academic months” to utilize federal benefits. “Students can get all the grants and loans they

want,” said Hernandez. “But they can’t double-dip on state benefits.”

 

One of the state benefits that veterans have access to is CalVet College Fee Waiver. Unlike the G.I. Bill, the CalVet Fee Waiver only covers tuition, not campus fees.

However, the CalVet Fee Waiver is in effect until the student turns 27 and gives them more time

to pursue higher education opportunities.

 

“After you enroll, certify for those benefits,” said Maddox.

 

Maddox explained that the Veterans Center also helps veterans suffering from mental disorders

such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of trauma. They provide healthcare

support and counseling for veterans.

For more information on veteran services and benefits, visit the CSUSM Veterans Center located by Markstein Hall or visit their website at csusm.edu/veterans.

 

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