We know from experience that having a veteran counselor who cares and helps their students succeed is crucial to veteran success. (Simply having one with the title on campus isn’t going to cut it if they aren’t invested and inspired in their work.)
3 Steps to ensure your veteran counselor is helping their student veterans succeed
#1. Hire The Right Person
First and foremost, ensure that you are putting the right individuals into these roles when hiring. The right individual for this job must be passionate about the military, veterans, and helping thothers succeed.
#2. Equip Your Counselor With The Right Tools
Most veterans are entering college for the first time or returning after many years away. The VA understands that concerns may arise from working with Veterans. Through the creation of the VITAL program, the VA strives to reduce stigma by consultation and liaison services to the campus community. The purpose: To educate faculty, staff, and students about the unique strengths and challenges facing student veterans.
The VITAL program strives to enhance academic retention & success through:
- On-campus clinical care and coordination
- Improving understanding of Veterans’ unique strengths and challenges through education and training
- Collaborating with your local VA Medical Center, Veterans Benefits Administration, campus faculty and staff, and community resources
If your college or university has questions or needs assistance with veteran assistance on campus, email Khamkay.firstname.lastname@example.org
Understand VA Education Benefits
School certifying officials as well as veteran counselors need to be up to speed on all things involving VA education benefits. (This is bigger than just understanding the GI Bill, which we will get to next.) Student veterans are going to reach out to veteran counselors about the logistics of their benefits. If students have a working relationship with their veteran counselor and then the counselor directs them to the certifying official, whom they don’t know well, then there is the opportunity for a loss of trust. If the veteran counselor isn’t as well versed on VA education benefits, then they should at least accompany the student to the meeting with the VA certifying official. That way it will be a comfortable learning experience for all.
Know the GI Bill
One of the biggest stressors is making sure that the GI Bill benefits that a military personnel earned, are all applied correctly. Student veterans look to their veteran counselor, or financial aid personnel to know the answers to their questions and trust them to know what is best. Ensure your veteran officials have undergone this training course and are up-to-date on their GI Bill knowledge.
#3. Know Their Audience
Maybe your student veteran counselor has never been a part of the military. That is okay! However, because they are far removed from the realities of life for student vets, it’s important that they do extensive research and training to best understand those whom they serve on campus. The VA put together this resource toolkit to do just that and help veteran counselors realize the obstacles that their student veterans face on campus.
What else do you think veteran counselors should be trained on? Have you had a wonderful veteran counselor experience? We’d love to hear!
Featured Image Courtesy of Rochelle Nicole.