New program offers support to student veterans

There are challenges that may arise when transitioning back into civilian life for some soldiers. In addition to any mental or physical after effects of active duty, education and financial issues need to be addressed.

With help from the newly-created Veteran Support Services office, however, the 195 student veterans currently enrolled at Oakland are finding the transition much easier.

“These are people who’ve given a great deal to their country,” said Glenn McIntosh, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, in an April 2009 press release. “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.”

Located in room 103A of North Foundation Hall, the VSS office helps student veterans apply for admission, add and drop classes, pursue scholarship and grant opportunities, and educate themselves about unique financial benefits available to veterans.

One of those benefits is the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The bill seeks to help soldiers who have performed active duty with any branch of the armed forces since September 10, 2001.

The bill’s provisions went into effect in August 2009, giving universities billions of dollars in tuition money to recruit veterans to their campuses.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs official website, over 2,600 payments have been distributed since the GI Bill’s inception.

“It’s still too early to measure the impact of the bill. However, the expanded benefits package provides many veterans the ability to attend college,” McIntosh said. “Consequently, we expect to see an increase in the number of veterans seeking admission and enrolling at Oakland.”

The VSS office also refers student veterans to other campus offices and departments that can address specific questions regarding military certification and benefits, working in conjunction with the Veteran’s Office in 101A O’Dowd Hall.

The current student veterans at Oakland are from all five branches of the armed services, as well the National Guard.

Some have served as far back as the original Gulf War, but more have served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Oakland’s efforts to help those who have served in America’s armed forces haven’t gone unnoticed.

G.I. Jobs magazine has distinguished Oakland as a “military-friendly school,” an honor given only to the top 15 percent of all universities, colleges, and trade schools in the United States.

The university’s policies, efforts, and results pertaining to recruitment and retention of student veterans were a deciding factor in receiving the distinction.

“We should take great pride in this honor,” said Steven Shablin, Registrar. “Clearly OU has an interest in recruiting and retaining military students, and this recognition confirms the continuing stellar efforts by our staff in improving military-friendliness every year.”

Along with the national praise that Oakland has received, community response to the VSS office has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The VSS has been a positive addition to campus. Currently enrolled veterans feel that they now have a visible campus office capable of addressing their needs,” McIntosh said. “Additionally, since the veteran’s liaison, Michael Brennan, is a veteran himself, he can easily relate to many of the adjustment issues and needs faced by current and future veterans.”

In addition to providing a source of information for student veterans, VSS hosted an open house as part of an outreach campaign designed for enrolled and potential veterans.

“There has been a lot of interest shown about forming a veterans’ student organization, so the process has been started,” said Brennan. “We expect to start meeting in the near future, and would like to extend an invitation to all veterans at Oakland University interested in joining to come visit the VSS office.”

Current or future veterans who are interested in more information can visit the Veteran Support Services office in 103A North Foundation Hall or the Veteran’s Office in 101A O’Dowd Hall.