The transition from active duty to civilian life can be bumpy, if not arduous, for our nation's servicemembers. Those who come home wounded must face additional challenges, both physical and mental. Once the dust has settled, however, veterans must consider taking the next step in their life. For many, that means a return to school and an opportunity to pursue a new career path.
Earning an advanced degree can bring tangible benefits. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a bachelor's degree ear about $500 more per week and are significantly more likely to be employed than someone with just a high school diploma..
Servicemembers may initially be deterred from pursuing an education because of concerns over paying for tuition, books, housing and other expenses. They may also have to overcome factors such as differences in life experience and age between traditional students and veterans.
However, there are numerous options available at many top-ranked colleges and universities nationwide, including undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered online. With 24/7 access, online degree and executive certificate programs provide students with flexibility in terms of when and where they study. Wounded veterans, in particular, may benefit from distance learning, which can lower obstacles related to physical disabilities, medical treatment, transportation and other factors.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay you a housing allowance while you are attending classes.The bill's benefits also include a $1,000 annual book stipend and reimbursement for college admission tests such as the SAT.
In addition to the GI Bill, there are numerous other tuition assistance and vocational rehabilitation programs available for wounded warriors and other returning servicemembers. Those resources include:
- The Army's Warrior Transition Command
- The Air Force Wounded Warrior AFW2
- The Navy and Coast Guard Wounded Warrior Safe Harbor
- The Marine's Wounded Warrior Regiment
- The VA's VetSuccess Program helps veterans with service-related disabilities to find and retain employment. That can include resume development, apprenticeships, on-the-job training and training at a technical or business school. The program also provides counseling, medical referrals and independent living services for disabled veterans who are unable to work.
- The VA's Vet Success On Campus Program helps Veterans, Servicemembers, and their qualified dependents succeed and thrive through a coordinated delivery of on-campus benefits assistance and counseling, leading to completion of their education and preparing them to enter the labor market in viable careers.
- Student Veterans of America, which was formed in 2008, has about 500 chapters on campuses worldwide. The nonprofit organization's mission is, “To provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.” That can include networking opportunities, financial assistance for student veterans serving internships and various scholarships. Many colleges and universities also provide veteran-related services directly, including counseling and job training.
These are just a sampling of the programs available to wounded warriors and other returning servicemembers who want to pursue an education or vocational training. As with any undertaking, it's important to verify the authenticity of organizations and programs, and determine any eligibility requirements. The VA is a good starting point for prospective students looking to conduct such research.