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Veteran Support Services assists with educational benefits

Thursday, April 9, 2009
Veteran Support Services assists with educational benefits
By Dave Groves, staff writer

In many ways, U.S. military veterans enrolled at Oakland University are much like their non-military counterparts. They’re ambitious, hard working and looking forward to building a better future for themselves and their families.

“They’ve done their duty and want to move on,” said Joann Denby, Oakland University assistant registrar who oversees veteran certification. “They want to get their degrees and get on with their lives.”

But in other ways, veterans have very unique needs. Often, for example, they need help sorting through the complex set of federal regulations that govern the college education benefits they earned while serving their country. Providing students with this help are OU’s Veteran Support Services staff members.

“A lot of times, we’re the first point of contact for these students,” said Ann Besaw, OU’s Veteran’s Administration certifying official, who works directly with veterans to address virtually any questions or concerns they have about their college education. “It’s a small group, but I feel they should be able to come to us for any reason.”

Currently, 168 veterans are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at OU. Among the most popular areas of study are sociology, nursing, biology, accounting and psychology. Veterans Support Services staffers anticipate that the new Post 9/11 GI Bill – effective August 1, 2009 – will provide opportunities for even more veterans.

In addition to helping this group of students understand, apply for and take advantage of their education benefits, staff members help them apply for admission to the university, register for classes, pursue scholarship and grant opportunities, drop courses if need be, change majors, coordinate military duty assignments with the university’s academic departments and much more.

In many cases, staff members help students by referring them to other campus offices and departments that can address specific questions and concerns, such as honing academic skills, coordinating financial aid or obtaining career guidance. Denby and Besaw said that both they and the students they work with enjoy a high level of understanding and support from OU faculty and staff, which makes it easier for students to fulfill any outstanding military obligations.

Whether students are on active duty, in the reserves, entitled to vocational rehabilitation services or have dependants entitled to educational benefits, Veteran Support Services staff members do all in their power to ensure that these service members and their eligible family members achieve their academic and personal goals.

“They’ve volunteered themselves and have given something very important to our country,” Besaw said. “If I can give them back just a little of what they’ve given us, I’m passionate about doing that.”

This same perspective is shared by members of the Veterans Support Services Task Force at Oakland University.

“These are people who’ve given a great deal to their country,” said Glenn McIntosh, OU’s assistant vice president for student affairs and chair of the task force. “If they make a decision to further their education, we want to do anything we can to make that as easy a process as possible.”

He added that adding a knowledgeable veteran to Oakland’s staff and perhaps even creating a place on campus specifically dedicated to serving veterans are among recommendations the committee is considering. Final recommendations will be based on feedback task force members have garnered through interviews with veterans and a broad study of potential services designed to meet veterans’ needs.

For more information on services Oakland offers to military veterans, visit http://www2.oakland.edu/registrar/vcinfo.cfm or call (248) 370-4010. For more information on the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33), visit http://www.gibill.va.gov/.