Veterans: Benefits you may not know about

Amy Golden and Aysha

 Serdah

Amy Golden

Aysha Serdah

 GROSSMONT COLLEGE — Being in the military and returning to school is a unique experience. Throughout campus, many Veteran students have commented on how troubling it has been to attain their requirements of a minimum of 12 units per semester to receive their full GI Bill benefits.

The state of California gives Veterans priority enrollment up to two years after getting off active duty. Grossmont College has been very generous in giving Veterans up to four years priority enrollment.  As Veterans, many have the option to utilize their GI Bill to fulfill their education goals or let their dependents use the benefits offered.  There are multiple options Veterans can choose from.  Depending on their time in service, information can be found at www.gibill.va.gov.

In order to receive complete benefits for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Veterans may have to waitlist themselves or “crash” a course just to receive their 12 required units. This can be quite worrisome if you are expecting to get paid for a certain amount of units. You have to practically beg for the class and wonder who in your class is actually going to fulfill their obligation as a student.

The current number of enrolled students at Grossmont is about 16,000 strong.  Erica Loaiza of the Veteran’s Affairs portion of the Student Services Administration gave an  approximate number of  1,600 to 2,000 Veterans currently utilizing their benefits, whether it is partial or a full amount.

Currently, in the Veteran’s Services Department there are seven work-study program students; one full-time and one hourly on staff in the office. Students on the work-study program are paid to work for select departments in the school, which are financed by federal funds through the Department of Education. Students are required to be paid at least the federal minimum wage. Some of the students enjoyed their position and work environment so much that after they have transferred to another school, they still work in the same office as long as it doesn’t interfere with their current school schedule.

When asked, “How does being a work-study in the Veteran’s Services Department as a Mother, attending classes full-time, work for you?”  Erica Loaiza responds, “It works very well.  Basically, I’m only when I’m not in class, during school hours. It’s a great working environment; the camaraderie is amazing and strong.  We all have a good time together; we even come back here to the office to eat lunch and just hang out between classes.”

It’s good to hear that strong camaraderie remains among troops in a civilian office setting and how they enjoy each other’s company as much the office portrays in observation from the other side of desk, as a client.

The first week of school shouldn’t be seen as a bad experience, but as an experience in itself.  For first time Veterans attempting to use their benefits with the little information they may have been able to gather through various chains, there is nothing like self-experience.

There is still an issue in the lack of funding for educational purposes, which stands in the way of many in completing their educational goals. Once a Veteran completes a semester, there is usually no problem getting an earlier registration date for the next semester.