By Madi Tortora
There are many ways to help a veteran in the United States, and many charities that make it possible. Disabled American Veterans provides free rides to men and women who can’t travel to Veteran Affairs medical facilities on their own. The Fisher House Foundation has created a program called the Hero Miles Program, which uses donated frequent flier miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members.
A program called Puppies Behind Bars is a program in which prisoners train dogs for veterans with PTSD, and these dogs actually end up on holiday cards that are sold to support the program itself. Even just those few examples provide ample opportunity to help out the men and women so generously serving the United States.
The GI Bill, specifically post-9/11, is an extremely helpful opportunity for service men and women to attain education once they return home. It also provides disability compensation so that their field of employment is less limited because of their disability. The money received is completely tax-free and intended to make up for the veteran’s lost earning capacity in the marketplace.
“All education benefits for veterans and their dependents are intended to essentially provide an opportunity for veterans to go to school and obtain an education,” said Michael Smith, the director of the Washtenaw County Department of Veteran Affairs. “It’s historically because veterans are behind their peers by that age in life because their peers may have gone on to college and had other opportunities to go to school.”
Education-wise, based on the percentage of eligibility, the government – through the Veterans Association – pays all the institution fees: Tuition, and also $1,000 a year for books so that they receive $500 per semester, according to Smith. The number of months served influences your eligibility rates so that the more time served, the higher rates received.
“So what they do under post 9/11 is they pay, essentially, all cost as long as the costs are lower than the highest tuition rate at a public institution in the state,” Smith said. “That for us is the University of Michigan.” According to Smith, roughly 85-90 percent of veterans use their educational benefits, and if they don’t right away, they have time to use it. They get 48 months worth of benefits, and they get 12 years from their separation to use those benefits, via the post-9/11 GI bill.
Whether it is the GI bill or the multiple programs, WCC and the community at large try to offer veterans a lot of help when they need it.