EMU ranks as vet-friendly school
Eastern Michigan University was recently ranked by G.I. Jobs magazine as one of the most military-friendly universities. Some of the resources that made the status achievable are housing options and Veterans Services.
According to Monique Coleman, director of Veteran Services, one of the things making EMU vet-friendly is the school service office.
“Not every school has a Veterans center; not every school is going to have a mental health social worker person from [Department of Veterans Affairs] to come in and to assist us with the students,” Coleman said.
That being said, the biggest role of the campus office is helping student veterans receive all benefits to which they are entitled.
“We actually process their educational benefits,” Coleman said. “For instance, if a student comes in and they have an honorable discharge, then they are entitled to certain VA educational benefits.”
According to Coleman, another tool for students is the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
“The Post 9/11 GI Bill is for veterans who served on active duty after Sept. 11, 2001.”
In order to receive benefits through the bill, veterans must be active for at least 90 days.
“The GI Bill is specificly for veterans who actually served on active duty, who just got out under normal conditions,” Coleman said.
Benefits veterans receive through the bill are determined by the time a veteran has served. For instance, in order for a veteran to receive maximum benefits, he/she must have served for at least three years. Maximum benefits can include payment of tuition and fees, private tutoring and non-taxable VA work study. Some vets can even get up to $1,000 for books per academic school year.
“The determination is not based on our office; it’s actually based on the department of Veterans Services and Education division,” Coleman said.
Veterans who decide to waive their right to benefits provided by the bill can have their benefits transferred to their children and spouses who can then receive the same benefits the veteran normally would.
But the Veterans Office is currently focusing on helping more veterans at home as well as those overseas. Coleman explained some of the things she would like to see improved.
“A lot of times, when we talk about volunteerism or putting a care package together for soldiers that are overseas, we overlook the veterans that are right here on campus,” she said.
Coleman is planning to put together care packages for future on-campus veterans aside from assisting additional groups.
“I still want to take care of the overseas guys,” Coleman said. “I still want to take care of the homeless veterans, but I also want to make sure that we’re recognizing and appreciating the veterans that are right here on campus.”
According to Coleman, some returning veterans have difficulty readjusting to social life outside the military. While some veterans have an easy time ‘blending in’ with others, some tend to withdraw from social environments.
One important readjustment for vets is campus housing.
“Some of them like to be included…They want to blend in with everyone else; they don’t want the praise…,” said Lewis Savage, assistant director of residential services.
Interestingly, Savage explained student vets tend to favor Cornell and Westview apartments as housing options. Returning veterans might react to loud noises caused by partying as a result of post-traumatic stress.
Cornell and Westview’s more remote locations—farther away from the main campus than most living quarters—allow students and returning vets to enjoy a quieter place to live. A common belief is the less populated apartments might be easier for vets to adjust rather than the highly populated residence halls.
In Savage’s opinion, the noisiness in other apartments is sometimes why vets do not adjust well.
Also in the area is a fitness area for vets to exercise, including outdoor workout equipment. Outside the Westview
apartments, stands the four flags of each branch of the military, along with the American flag.
Vets who have served for between 90 days to six months receive 40 percent of their basic allowance for housing.
“Our message is to make sure that all veterans are welcomed,” Savage said.