Resources for Veterans: Back to School

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center
Resources for Veterans: Back to School

Many who leave the military decide to take advantage of the GI Bill and other education benefits in their post-military careers through enrollment in higher education degree or certificate programs. This transition to civilian life can be challenging, and adjusting to academic life — especially with a traumatic brain injury — can add additional challenges and stress. A major challenge for student veterans with TBI is their lack of knowledge of how to access services at college campuses, or that help is even available.

The following resources represent a sample of many resources that can help veterans navigate their transition from military to student life, while dealing with the symptoms of TBIs.

Getting Started

Common School Offices

All schools are organized in different ways; however these are some of the following offices that may be found on many campuses, and can provide more resources, information to assist in the transition from military to college life.

Veterans Resource Center: If available, this office provides important points of contact for academic advice and benefits questions.

Registrar: Responsible for academic records; handles registration, withdrawals and transcript requests. The office will often have an appointed veteran’s affairs representative or a Veterans Affairs certifying official to address the needs of veterans on campus.

Financial Aid: Processes scholarships, grants and other financial aid, including the Yellow Ribbon program. A veteran’s affairs representative also may be found here.

Counseling Center: Provides personal, group, academic, career and/or psychiatric counseling to students. Academic counseling can assist with academic planning, institutional and transfer requirements and implementing immediate and long-term goals among other services. If not capable of assisting students with TBI themselves, the center would be able to refer students to appropriate health care providers and treatment facilities.

Disability Services: Coordinates accommodations for students with physical and mental disabilities, including TBI. Common accommodations include exam modifications, time extensions, recorded lectures, note-taking services and priority registration.

Academic Colleges: Assign academic advisers, each student’s first link in the chain of command for academic problems; headed by a dean.

Ombudsman: Comparable to a military inspector general, they investigate complaints to provide confidential and informal assistance to constituents of the university’s community, which includes students, staff, faculty, and/or administrators.

Getting Started: Other Resources

American Council on Education (ACE) Transcripts: ACE provides transcripts that document the experience and training you received, including those completed during your military enlistment. The ACE transcripts are recognized by more than 2,300 colleges and universities. For information, go to www.acenet.edu/news-room/Pages/Transcripts-for-Military-Personnel.aspx.

College Board: The College Board helps students prepare for college by providing College Readiness programs such as Advanced Placement (AP®). It also helps students connect with and successfully complete a high-quality college education by providing resources, tools and services in the areas of college planning, recruitment and admissions, financial aid and retention. For information, go to www.collegeboard.org.

DD-214 Form: This is a military service record that outlines the experiences and accomplishments from your time in the military. To fill out the form, go to www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/about-service-records.html.

Brain Injury Association of America (BIA): BIA is a brain injury advocacy organization that provides information and resources to individuals with brain injuries, their families and the health care professionals who work with them. “Young Adults with Brain Injury and College” provides answers to frequently asked questions and can be found at www.biausa.org/_literature_50452/Young_Adults_with_Brain_Injury_and_College. For information about the organization, go to www.biausa.org.

Military.com: This website connects service members, military families and veterans to a variety of benefits of service such as government benefits, scholarships, mentors and much more. For information about this free resource, go to www.military.com.

Military Friendly Schools: This list is published every year by G.I. Jobs magazine, which surveys colleges and universities and trade schools about the services, programs, discounts, scholarships, clubs, networking and benefits offered to military students. To access the Guide to Military Friendly Schools®, go to www.militaryfriendlyschools.com/mfsList.aspx.

OEF/OIF Program Managers: OEF/OIF veterans may contact program managers at VA Hospitals to find more information on specific health care services and service-connected disabilities. For more information, go to www.oefoif.va.gov.

Post 9/11 GI Bill: The VA pays benefits to eligible veterans, reservists and active duty service members to support your continuing education goals, such as on-the-job training, apprenticeships and non-college degree programs. Learn more about the bill, how to choose a school and apply for benefits at www.gibill.va.gov.

Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC): The SOC consortium is made up of colleges and universities with policies that allow service members and their families to complete degrees, despite frequent moves. SOC must agree to certain criteria, including a reasonable transfer of credit, reduced academic residency, credit for military training and experience, and credit for nationally recognized training programs. SOC is funded by the Department of Defense through a contract with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.  For information, go to www.soc.aascu.org.

The Common Application: A not-for-profit membership organization for colleges and universities that hosts a common, standardized first-year application form to be used at any member institution. Both online and print versions are available for the First-year and Transfer Applications. For information, go to www.commonapp.org.

The Universal College Application: A free college admission application that has a standard application for participating colleges. This can be used at participating colleges for both first-year and transfer applicants. For more information, go to www.universalcollegeapp.com.

TRICARE: As a major component of the Military Health System, TRICARE combines the health care resources of the uniformed services with networks of civilian health care professionals, institutions, pharmacies and suppliers to provide access to high-quality health care services while maintaining the capability to support military operations. For information, go to www.tricare.mil.

Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN): This is a network of medical centers, vet centers, and outpatient clinics offering primary and specialized care. Veterans can always contact these facilities for additional support and during the return to school transition. These networks are grouped into 21 geographic regions. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs maintains lists of contact information by region. For information, go to http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/division_flsh.asp?dnum=1.

Veterans Upward Bound: This is a free Department of Education program designed to motivate and help veterans develop the skills necessary to apply and succeed in higher education. The program helps improve basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas. For more information, go to www2.ed.gov/programs/triovub/index.html.

VetSuccess on Campus: The VA launched the VetSuccess program in 2009 for veterans with service-connected disabilities or a serious employment handicap. The VetSuccess program assigns each veteran to a vocational rehab counselor. The counselor provides vocational testing, career and academic counseling, and referrals for more intensive health services, such as mental health treatment, VA medical treatment or community outpatient clinic treatment. To find a location, go to vetsuccess.gov/vetsuccess_on_campus.

Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (V.I.T.A.L): A veteran-centered, results-oriented initiative of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It is designed to help veterans succeed in college and inform them of the programs and resources made available by the VA. V.I.T.A.L. focuses on reducing or eliminating any stigmas, the transition from being a service member to being a veteran, academic leadership and empowerment.

Wounded Warrior Project (WWP): The WWP serves veterans and service members who sustained a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, connected to their military service on or after Sept. 11, 2001. The project also serves their families. WWP offers many unique programs such as the Transition Training Academy that provides information technology training; TRACK, an education center in Jacksonville, Fla., and San Antonio that gives warriors a jump start on meeting educational goals; Campus Services which helps warriors achieve their educational goals. For more information, go to www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Yellow Ribbon Program Schools: These participating public and private colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad have partnered with the VA to reduce tuition rates for student veterans. To find participating schools by state, visit www.gibill.va.gov/gi_bill_info/ch33/yrp/yrp_list_2011.htm.

Money Matters

College Connection: This scholarship website includes a free Financial Aid Database that consists of private sector awards provided by corporations, non-profit organizations and associations that offer scholarships and grants. For information, go to www.collegescholarships.com.

CollegeScholarships.org: A searchable scholarship database that can be used to find scholarships based on many different search criteria, including student type (e.g., minority, female, disabled), sports, state of study, degree level and topic of study. For more information, go to www.collegescholarships.org.

Fastweb.com: A scholarship database that matches applicants to scholarships and financial resources based on their profile. This site also provides advice on applying to college, accessing student life organizations and connecting with other students. For information, go to www.fastweb.com.

FinAid.org: A comprehensive and searchable database that offers financial aid information, advice and tools. This site also provides a list of veteran-specific scholarships. For information, go to www.finaid.org.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Through the Federal Student Aid program, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, this website provides the FAFSA along with information about application filing options and deadlines. For information, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov.

GI Bill: Chapter 36 Program: This VA program offers free one-on-one vocational and personal counseling to determine what educational and career opportunities are best suited for you. Services are directed to transitioning service members. Services include counseling to help you decide between civilian or military occupations, develop a training program, and overcome barriers that may affect your training or employment. For information about qualifications and how to apply, visit the VA’s GI Bill website at gibill.va.gov/support/counseling_services/index.html.

Military.com– This website connects service members, military families and veterans to a variety of benefits of service such as government benefits, scholarships, mentors and much more. For information about this free resource, go to www.military.com.

Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (Chapter 30): Enrolled active duty members pay $100 per month for 12 months and are then able to receive monthly educational benefits upon completing a minimum service obligation. More information is available at www.military.com/education/gi-bill/active-duty-gi-bill-users-guide.html.

Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606): Eligibility requires a reservist to be actively drilling and have a six-year obligation in the Selected Reserve. More information is available at: http://www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/montgomery_gibill/selected_reserve.html.

Post-Vietnam Era Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP, Chapter 32): This program provides education and training opportunities to those who contributed to the program while on active duty. Their contributions are matched on a 2-for-1 basis.  For information, go to www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/other_programs/veap.html.

Post 9/11 GI Bill: The VA pays benefits to eligible veterans, reservists and active duty service members to support your continuing education goals, such as on-the-job training, apprenticeships and non-college degree programs. Learn more about the bill, how to choose a school and apply for benefits at www.gibill.va.gov.

Reserve Educational Assistance Program(REAP, Chapter 1607 of Title 10, U.S. Code): This program provides benefits to reservists who were activated in response to a war or national emergency. This allows reservists who were active for at least 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001 to be eligible for educational benefits or to receive an increase in current benefits. For information, go to www.gibill.va.gov/benefits/other_programs/reap.html.

The New GI Bill: This website is developed by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). It provides a user-friendly way to learn more about the Post 9/11 GI Bill and how to calculate benefits. For information, go to www.newgibill.org.

Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program (Yellow Ribbon Program): This is a part of the law that created the Post-9/11 GI Bill and is available for private or out-of-state public schools. This program allows approved organizations and the VA to help fund tuition and fees that are larger than what the Post-9/11 GI Bill will cover.  For information, go to gibill.va.gov/benefits/post_911_gibill/yellow_ribbon_program.html.

VR&E Chapter 31: If you have a disability rating of 20 percent or greater, you may qualify for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E, Chapter 21). For more information, go to http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/index.htm.

Tips for Success (Self-advocacy and peer support)

AfterDeployment.org: A behavioral health resource supporting service members, their families and veterans with common post-deployment challenges. Project partners for afterdeployment.org include leading behavioral health experts from the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, as well as civilian agencies.  For information, go to www.afterdeployment.org.

American Veterans with Brain Injuries (AVBI):  AVBI was organized in 2004 to offer support to the families of American service members and veterans who have suffered brain injuries. Since 2006, AVBI has offered a web-based peer support network and information resource. For information, go to www.avbi.org

CEMM Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): This website is developed by the Center of Excellence for Medical Multimedia (CEMM) and provides an informative and sensitive exploration of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), including information for patients, family members, and caregivers. Topics include types and symptoms of brain injury, TBI treatment and recovery, and helpful insights about the potential long-term effects of brain injury. For information, go to www.traumaticbraininjuryatoz.org.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vet Center Programs: The Vet Centers are a system of community-based counseling centers that are staffed by small multidisciplinary teams of providers, many of whom are combat veterans themselves. Vet Center staff is available toll-free during normal business hours at 1.800.905.4675 (Eastern) and 1.866.496.8838 (Pacific). They provide readjustment counseling and outreach services to all returning soldiers and veterans who served in any combat zone. Services also are available to family members for military-related issues.

There are 232 community-based Vet Centers located in all states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information, go to www.vetcenter.va.gov.

Military OneSource: Sponsored by the Department of Defense, Military OneSource provides resources to help military families face everyday challenges. The support services offer 24/7 personal non-medical counseling services online, via telephone, or face-to-face. For information, call 1.800.342.9647 or go to www.militaryonesource.mil.

National Veterans Foundation (NVF): A national nonprofit, non-governmental organization of veterans helping veterans and their families. Call their hotline to speak with a trained veteran 1.888.777.4443, or request assistance from a counselor. For more information, go to www.nvf.org.

National Resource Directory (NRD): A website that connects wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers to programs and services that support them. NRD provides access to services and resources at the national, state and local levels to support recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration. Visitors can find information on a variety of topics including education. Go to www.woundedwarriorresourcecenter.com/.

Student Veterans of America (SVA): A nonprofit coalition of student veterans groups on more than 265 college campuses nationwide that provides peer-to-peer networks for veterans attending those schools. SVA coordinates campus activities, provides information unique to veterans and facilitates the transition process to help support veteran success in higher education. Campus chapters can be found at www.studentveterans.org/?page=Chapter_Map.

Veterans Crisis Line: This service connects veterans who are facing a crisis, as well as their families and friends, with qualified VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and choose option 1. They also can chat online or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24/7. Calls can be referred to local Suicide Prevention Coordinators and other VA providers who specialize in TBI. For information, go to www.veteranscrisisline.net/.

Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN): This is a network of medical centers, vet centers and outpatient clinics offering primary and specialized care. Veterans can contact these facilities for additional support during the return to school transition. The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains lists of contact information by region. For information, go to www2.va.gov/directory/guide/division_flsh.asp?dnum=1.

Veterans Outreach Center: The independent, community-centered nonprofit provides one-stop supportive services to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families. The center offers free programs and services, such as education benefit counseling and veteran-to-veteran mentoring. For information, go to www.veteransoutreachcenter.org.

Warrior Care Blog: The blog is a portal for various resources and programs to support military members of all branches and their families. The office was established to ensure wounded, ill, injured and transitioning service members receive high quality care and seamless transition support through proactive leadership, responsive policy, effective oversight and interagency collaboration. To access the blog, go to warriorcare.dodlive.mil.

Posted on BrainLine April 12, 2013

Prepared by The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. www.dvbic.org.

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