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 get started as they transition from military to student life, while dealing with the symptoms of TBIs.
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