Tagged: veteran education

Seven Things to do Before the World Ends

Posted by Kelli McKinney

So, now, about that impending apocalypse… I realize I’m a little late to the Mayan Doomsday party, but holy smokes, do I have a lot left to do on my bucket list. I’d better get cracking. I’m not sure if I can get these all in, but hey, I’ll give it a shot.

1) Eat jalapenos straight from the jar.

2) Play the violin for a US President.

3) Visit Carhenge with my husband and son. Done. Why yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds. See photo.

Carhenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Engage son in all-out plastic army man/Jenga blocks/Angry Birds battle of superheroic proportions. Lose said battle graciously. Done. Yes, it was awesome too. See photo.

AngryBirds battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


5) Eat fried butter on a stick. In progress. You don’t want to see this photo. Trust me.

6) See a baby bison. Done. And it was super cute.

baby bison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


7) Earn a degree.

Numbers three and four are good, and in hindsight I should have tackled number one before I attempted number five. Number two was a total planted question so I could feel somewhat accomplished in my life. Sorry about that. Please don’t judge me. I performed with a youth orchestra for President Ronald Reagan when I was a kid. It totally still counts.

But anyway, I’m thinking, for argument’s sake, that if the world doesn’t actually end on Friday I can still achieve number seven. It’s not impossible, right? There are plenty of online programs that would accommodate this working mom‘s wacky schedule. I may even be able to work out a class schedule that leaves me enough time to take that zumba class I’ve been anxious to try. (Note to self: #8 – give zumba a whirl.) And if you are in the military or are a veteran or dependent, you can achieve this, too, especially with all of the education benefits available to you.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy doomsday and (if we’re lucky), a wondrous holiday season and an adventurous new year!

Free IT Training Opportunity Puts Vets in Jobs Market Sweet Spot

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

veterans to workSAP, a major German software development company with over 55,000 employees, has committed to offering free IT training to qualified American veterans, the company announced last week. The new program, called Veterans to Work, will provide scholarships for veterans to pursue training and certification programs on SAP software, including analytics, data management and mobility solutions, the company said.

The first group of veterans started class this week in Texas. Within 12 months, SAP aims to train and certify 1,000 veterans in California, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Eventually the program will expand nationally through its online accessibility.

The goal, ultimately, is to have up to 20,000 transitioning veterans trained up to manage SAP’s business software solutions.

Veterans selected for the program can choose from a variety of offered courses and certification programs:

  • Analytics
    • SAP Business Intelligence Platform
    • SAP Crystal Reports
    • SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence
  • Database & Technology
    • SAP Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise
    • SAP HANA, In-Memory Computing
    • SAP Sybase PowerBuilder
    • SAP Sybase PowerDesigner
  • Mobility
    • Sybase Unwired Platform – Developers

A Growth Field

Even as the overall economy is mired in growth that is tepid at best, the software development, data management and IT fields continue to grow – and will need a steady inflow of fresh talent for the next several years. The SAP opportunity dovetails nicely with the economy of the 20-teens.

According to the IT and HR consulting firm Gartner, Inc., the data architecture industry is going to need to find an additional 4.4 million workers, worldwide, to service the exploding demand for data management – all in the next three years.

There simply aren’t enough qualified workers to meet the project demand, notes Gartner. In fact, Gartner anticipates that two thirds of those jobs will never be filled. SAP’s move is potentially a shrewd way of ensuring itself market share in the data services and business software and analytics field going forward; after all, they will not be able to sell much software to companies if the companies can’t find qualified IT staff to run them. The Veterans to Work program gets SAP ahead of that hiring curve.

One of SAP’s disciplines is mobile technology – a field that continues to grow in leaps and bounds. Gartner projects 1.6 billion new smart mobile devices will be sold in 2016. Two out of three workers will own a smartphone, and 40 percent of workers will be mobile.

This program puts the selected veterans in one of the ‘sweet spots’ of the 21st century economy. And SAP will benefit from the veteran talent pool.

For more information, and to apply for the program, visit sap.com/veteranstowork.

VA Student Work-Study Program Could Mean Long Delays in Paycheck Processing; Our Veterans Deserve Better

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Veterans AffairsThe Department of Veterans Affairs makes a practice of hiring veterans to help other vets as they transition out of the military and into college. Unfortunately, they also make a practice out of not paying them on time.

NBC News obtained an internal survey of VA employees hired under the “work-study” program.

From the NBC News article:

“Student veterans hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs to help fellow ex-service members transition into college have routinely waited four to six weeks — and, in one case, four months — for unpaid wages, prompting eviction worries and mounting debt…”

The work-study program is a feature of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Qualifying veterans going to school themselves can get paid to assist transitioning veterans and helping them navigate the VA system.

Participants earn the minimum wage in their jurisdictions, and log hours serving in a variety of capacities:

  • Assisting with processing VA paperwork at schools or at Veterans Administration offices
  • Veteran outreach services performed under VA supervision or under the auspices of a State approving agency
  • Providing services at VA hospitals and clinics
  • Serving at DoD facilities assisting with education benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR), or the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) (though only participants receiving these benefits can get paid for this work under the program
  • Administrative assistance at the National Cemetery Association

Participating veterans can get paid up to 50 hours in advance, or up to 40 percent of the number of hours in their work-study agreement with their school, whichever is less. The amount of hours worked is limited to an average of 25 per week during your enrollment period. But veterans can work between enrollment periods, bunch the hours however they want, consistent with the work available.

Once the first advance period is up, the VA promises to pay participants every time they complete 50 hours of service in the program.

But the VA seems to be having trouble delivering on its promise. More from the NBC article:

“Metcalf’s survey found VA work-study employees at five campuses who reported waiting one month to two months for payments — and a student in North Dakota who was not compensated for four months. (Among the 18 schools represented in the survey were Texas A&M, Florida State and the University of Kentucky). Survey participants also revealed that a number of student veterans have quit their work-study jobs due to the chronic payment delays, hamstringing veteran-services departments at some campuses.”

Veterans are complaining that it takes weeks or months before they are paid – and that the VA is not giving them any answers in the meantime about why their paychecks are hung up. Typically, veterans will get a voicemail message saying that VA workers are “busy processing time cards.” Calls are frequently not returned.

Even the reporter looking into the story didn’t get anyone from the VA on the phone. Instead – he got an email from a VA spokesperson – blaming veterans!

“A voicemail left Monday by NBC News with the VA media relations office prompted an emailed response Wednesday from a VA spokesperson: ‘VA will review any issues with the work-study to ensure payments are delivered in a timely manner. To allow more timely payments to work-study students, our regional processing offices recommend that employers submit time records to the work-study coordinator once 50 work hours have been accrued. In some cases, time records are submitted after a student has accrued 100 or more hours.'”

To be eligible for the program, you must be enrolled in a college degree, professional or vocational training program. You must be enrolled at least “three-quarter” time.

Priority goes to applicants with a VA disability rating of 30 percent or more, or those with a service-related disability.

Interested veterans eligible for the 9/11 GI Bill can apply for the program with the VA using this form.

Tips:

I regret I cannot strongly recommend this program for the vast majority of veterans – even if the VA were better at paying on time. The vast majority of veterans transitioning back into the civilian sector, or seeking to go to school, have better options to earn money, gain valuable contacts , and obtain private sector experience.

Don’t rely on the VA for your tuition and your income, if you can help it. If you have your tuition benefits coming from one source, and your income from another, a glitch won’t cause a meltdown in everything at once. Work somewhere else. Don’t settle for minimum wage. You are honorably discharged veterans. Many of you have combat experience, and most have at least some marketable skill somewhere. If nothing else, you should have a maturity level, experience level and an ability to handle stress that is much greater than the typical minimum wage worker in your city. Yes, jobs are tight. Keep looking. There’s nothing wrong with picking up a few hours while you are looking — but have a contingency plan in the event your pay check is delayed. Not every town has a lot of private sector jobs available. And the VA Work Study Program has the advantage of flexible hours. Keep looking.

Most internships are better. Your work in this particular work-study program is unlikely to help you much in your civilian career. If you’re going to work for minimum wage, it’s much better to get in the door at an internship, apprenticeship, or entry-level position in your chosen field or industry. Unless you want to be a career VA employee and can work with VA supervisors in a position to hire you once you are finished with school, move on. Build a Rolodex of contacts elsewhere.

Join the Reserves or Guard. If you haven’t signed on with a Reserve or National Guard unit, consider it. One weekend a month of drill pay equals about 4 days of active duty base pay. This may work out to a big chunk of what you would earn in the Work-Study Program anyway. Your unit may have other work you can do during the week, on RMP or Active Duty Special Work status, State Active Duty for Air or Army National Guard members. Plus, many states offer free tuition to National Guard members and other valuable benefits.

 

Have you had problems getting paid in the VA Work-Study Program? What have you done to find a job after leaving the service. Leave your advice in the comments below.

Ask a Stupid Question! (No, really.)

Posted by Debi Teter

questions answered smSpeak up, people. It’s Ask a Stupid Question Day.

Friday, September 28 is Ask a Stupid Question Day. And although most of us have been taught that there is no such thing as a stupid question, apparently that was not the case in the early 1980s when this holiday originated. So the glorious decade that brought us Duran Duran, acid-washed jeans, Live Aid and Atari also shepherded in the era of the Stupid Question. Thanks, 1980s.

At the time, education experts felt that too many kids experienced shame when they asked a question in class because other kids giggled at their question. So part of their ingenious solution to encourage students to ask more questions in the classroom was creating a day that actually called questions stupid.

A lot has changed since the 80s, thankfully, and looking at the title of this holiday, I have to wonder what definition of “stupid question” are we applying? But at any rate, I happen to believe that every question is a good question, and in observance of Ask a Stupid Question Day, I submit to you my annual Stupid Questions, asked with complete sincerity:

1)     Why is there only one national space program and no state or city space programs?

2)     Is there really going to be a bacon shortage next year?

3)     Whatever happened to Peter Gabriel?

4)     How many Kool-aid flavors are there?

5)     Who invented shoelaces?

6)     When is the best time to buy an island?

So if you’ve been holding back an inquiry or two for fear of being ridiculed by classmates, co-workers, or cashiers in the checkout line, stand proud. Today is YOUR day.

All those questions you’ve been afraid to ask, those wonders you’ve been wondering, the puzzlers you’ve been puzzling over, just put them out there. Speak up. Whether you’re in a classroom or a chat room, a boardroom or a boardwalk, now is the time to ask whatever it is that’s on your mind.

And if you’re in a class or a meeting or in line at the grocery store and you hear someone else ask a question, the No Laughing rule applies. Unless the person asking is a comedian, in which case you should probably laugh because the question is most likely intended to be funny. But otherwise, be kind and support your fellow inquiring mind.

I think that in spite of their misaligned holiday naming convention, and perhaps a missed opportunity to squelch bullying, those teachers in the 80s were on to something. If we stop asking questions, we stop learning. What would happen if fear of retaliation or public scorn made us unable to ask questions of our leadership, our peers, or even ourselves? Ask Dr. Michelle Washington, whose questioning of the VA and their treatment of veterans with PTSD landed her a poor performance review. Asking “why” can be one of the scariest, yet most empowering experiences there is.

The ability to question, to explore, and simply to think critically for ourselves is at the crux of our national identity. Asking questions – and listening to the answers – can lead to greater understanding of the world around us, and it’s one reason why education is so important.

So go ahead – ask your questions. Listen to those answers. And ask, ask, ask more questions. As long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of your fellow citizens, it’s your right to be inquisitive.

After thinking about it some more, I’ve decided that I want to add to my previous list of questions. Here it is:

7)      What better way to maintain an inquisitive, entrepreneurial spirit and keep challenging myself every day to be better than to go back to school?

And as a cautionary tale about what happens when you stop asking questions and educating yourself, I leave you with this clip from the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”

What do you think? What questions will you ask today? How about using your education benefits to go to class and ask even more questions?

Back to School = Back to GI Bill Benefits Claims

Posted by Debi Teter

military studentIt’s as predictable as the rise and set of the sun: After the school bell rings, the registrar office doors close, and the last freshman finds their class, GI Bill benefits claim forms begin to pour into the VA offices everywhere in a torrential storm. This is not a bad thing, mind you, but the resulting administrative logjam – and delay in payment – always comes as an unhappy surprise to many applicants. Don’t let that be you. Here are a few tips we’ve gleaned from VA employees and students that might help you get your claim processed faster. Or at least it will give you something to read (besides your homework) while you wait.

There are a few things you can do to help your claim get processed:

  1. Find out who your school’s Veterans certifying official is, and contact him or her directly. Ask if they plan to send your paperwork after the add/drop deadline (the VA receives most claims after) or if they send it as soon as your enrollment is complete. Encourage your VCO to send it as quickly as possible.
  2. If you add or drop classes – you MUST update your VCO. Changes can affect your payment – especially if you drop below full time status.
  3. Find out what benefits your school offers to Veterans. Some schools offer scholarships and/or interest-free tuition deferment for Veterans. In some states, Departments of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Service Organizations offer Veterans financial assistance (rent/ bills) if you get behind.
  4. Go straight to the source. If you know that your school has submitted your paperwork, and you haven’t heard a peep from anyone about your claim, call 1-888-GIBILL-1. Before you call, expect two things: You will have to schedule a call-back appointment. You will have to call them a number of times.
  5. Take advantage of Twitter. Tweet your questions with #askVBA during their twitter chat session on Thursday, Sept 13 from 3:30 – 4:30 EST.
  6. Use the VBA Facebook page as a resource – it is regularly updated with tips and information.

Last fall it took an average of 23 days for a GI Bill claim to be processed. According to one VA blogger, the VA hired more than 700 new employees to help process GI Bill claims before the fall 2012 semester in hopes of expediting the process time. The good news is – more Veterans are using their education benefits and pursuing their education goals. The downside is that it might take a little while to get paperwork pushed, I’s dotted and t’s crossed. 

In the meantime, get to class, with our thanks.

If you have any other tips, please tell us in the comments below.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Payments Late…Again

Posted by Debi Teter

GI Bill money for schoolHundreds of veterans did not receive their book stipends or housing allowance on time for the summer semester in Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia. For the second time since the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, veteran students are left in financial limbo because of technical glitches in the system. Many veteran students experienced the same issue in the fall of 2009.

Students in Ohio began calling the VA when payment did not arrive, to be told by the VA that the schools in question did not submit the students’ information. Schools did indeed correctly submit the required information on time. Explanations from the VA include a problem in transferring data from one hub to another and  simply just long delays in the system. Veterans using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits find themselves in classrooms without required supplies and texts, let alone payment for their homes.

Fortunately, most colleges in this are willing to work with students in regard to tuition payments, but this does not address housing or book costs. Some schools, such as Bowling Green State University in Ohio, are even offering short–term zero-percent interest loans to affected students, but many educational institutions are not going that far in their assistance.

You can’t help what happens with paperwork, electronic or otherwise, but you can help being blind-sided by these types of problems. Being proactive and setting up a contingency plan will help you alleviate if not some of the actual issues the extra stressors that accompany these types of situations you have no control over.

  • Always have a copy of your DD-214 handy.
  • Make sure your information with your college, university, or professional program is correct and up-to-date.
  • Keep in steady contact with your school’s Veteran’s Education Office (or whatever they call it). Having a face to go with the name on a piece of paper personalizes you, and that never hurts when you need their help.
  • Always have a rainy day fund set aside with at least one-month’s cost of expenses. This is much less than what is usually advised (six months to two years depending on what you read), but if you use the “starving student” scenario, one month of savings is huge. Once that is accomplished, go for two months savings, and so on. Don’t touch it.
  • Investigate what short-term emergency financial options are offered by your school should the worse happen.

Nice idea, Bernie.

Posted by Kelli McKinney

If you’ve ever pitched an idea to your supervisor only to receive little to no response – you’re not alone. Nobody at CERN paid attention to Tim Berners-Lee’s pet project either. He wasn’t looking to change the world. He was trying to help his colleagues share work. Here’s an interesting homage to Mr. Lee’s invention and the path he took that changed the world on this day in 1991.

The young British scientist took his invention public quietly with a brief message posted to a newsgroup. It was a message announcing a “WorldWideWeb” (WWW) project, including instructions on how to download the very first Web browser from the inaugural website. 

He created a user-friendly computer language called Hypertext Markup Language, and assigned each destination to a specific name: a Universal Resource Locator. Combined with the server collaboration created by the Internet, Berners-Lee’s hypertext transfer protocol provided the structure needed for information to be shared world wide.

Traffic to info.cern.ch started at 10 hits a day. And it grew. After August 6, 1991, the world was never the same. The impact of the Internet, good and bad, has been felt in virtually every aspect of daily life. According to Time magazine, within five years, the number of Internet users ballooned from 600,000 to 40 million. Within ten years, Berners-Lee’s creation had become nearly as commonplace as indoor plumbing.    

One of the more profound changes created by the WorldWideWeb has been the proliferation of distance education. The Web has made it possible for a number of people to finish high school and/or complete their degree program. According to a 2011 study by the National Center for Distance Education, in 2007–08, about 4.3 million undergraduate students, or 20 percent of all undergraduates, took at least one distance education course. About 0.8 million, or 4 percent of all undergraduates, took their entire program through distance education. For military service members and their families, distance education via the Web makes it possible for many to use their military benefits to achieve their educational goals.

So today, Tim Berners-Lee, we thank you for not giving up on your dream. Because of you, millions others don’t have to give up on theirs.

5 Ways Veterans Can Support PTSD Treatment

Posted by Debi Teter

Veterans cope with PTSDVeterans recovering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cannot expect to heal overnight. It takes time and strength through a gradual, day-to-day process. Aside from standard counseling and treatment, there are other steps veterans can take to help themselves return to shape.

1. Count on fellow veterans. It might seem obvious to some, but next-to-impossible to others, but reaching out to other men and women who have experienced PTSD from their time in service can help. Sometimes pride or embarrassment can stand in the way of asking for help, but your brothers and sisters in arms know exactly what you are feeling and can be the best resource you have. Having an extended community of PTSD survivors around you can give you a secure environment for getting through your toughest days.

2. Continue your education with your VA benefits. Enrolling in a degree or certificate program can keep your mind occupied on something other than your past experiences and make you feel productive. Veterans who have successfully coped with PTSD have found that working through an educational challenge was beneficial to their recovery. The VA provides several programs to veterans to help with their education, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)

3. Volunteer or Return to Work. Volunteering your time with a local organization, serving other veterans, youth, or elderly people in your community can give you a sense of purpose. Focusing on tasks at work and feeling a sense of achievement can also keep your mind occupied with positive thoughts.

4. Exercise to help your body and mind. Exercising has been shown to benefit people mentally as well as physically. Aside from increasing strength and releasing physical tension, exercise can provide relaxation, improve self-esteem and generate feelings of control over one’s life. 

5. Talk, talk, talk. PTSD can be one of the loneliest experiences in your life. Know that you are not alone and open up to those in your social network. Isolating yourself will only make you feel worse. Spend time talking with friends, family, work colleagues and others around you. You don’t have to talk about your PTSD or painful memories. Talk about any topic, small or large, to stay connected with those around you.

Overcoming PTSD is a challenge to be sure. But you are a warrior, trained to be strong and face challenges head-on. This one is no different. Reach out to family, friends, and fellow veterans to get through each day, and find something bigger than yourself to focus on. It will get better.

CCME Scholarships for Military, Spouses and Veterans

Posted by Debi Teter

military educationThe Council of College and Military Educators, a not-for-profit organization, was founded 39 years ago to promote, encourage, and deliver quality education to service members and their families in all branches of the armed services. Its membership is principally composed of military educators, civilian educators, post-secondary educational institutions, and suppliers of quality education products and services.

Each year the CCME offers $1000 scholarships for Servicemembers, Military Spouses, and Veterans who are working towards the completion of higher education degrees at a member institution.

CCME Scholarship Applications must be submitted online. This year’s application will be available July 16 through the scholarship application deadline, October 1, 2012.

The eligibility requirements for each CCME scholarship category are as follows:

CCME Joe King Scholarship (5 awards)
Applicants must:

  • be a uniformed service member (active, reserves, guard)
  • be currently enrolled in an educational program at a regional or national accredited institution and is a member institution of CCME
  • first time associate, bachelor, or graduate degree seeker
  • have a minimum of 12 or more hours (units) with a cumulative 2.5 GPA (undergraduate) from the CCME member institution; minimum 6 or more hours (units) with a cumulative 3.0 GPA (graduate) from the CCME member institution
  • submit an unofficial college or university transcript from all colleges
  • submit two (2) letters of recommendation to be completed by persons unrelated to applicant, who will attest to their motivation, character, integrity and educational pursuit. One recommendation must be from a faculty member or academic advisor.

CCME Spouse Scholarship (5 awards)
Applicants must:

  • be the spouse of a uniformed service member (active, reserves, guard, veteran)
  • be currently enrolled in an educational program at a regional or national accredited institution and is a member institution of CCME
  • first time associate, bachelor, or graduate degree seeker
  • have a minimum of 12 or more hours (units) with a cumulative 2.5 GPA (undergraduate) from the CCME member institution; minimum 6 or more hours (units) with a cumulative 3.0 GPA (graduate) from the CCME member institution
  • submit an unofficial college or university transcript from all colleges
  • submit two (2) letters of recommendation to be completed by persons unrelated to applicant, who will attest to their motivation, character, integrity and educational pursuit. One recommendation must be from a faculty member or academic advisor.

CCME Veteran Scholarship (5 awards)
Applicants must:

  • be a prior uniformed service member (active, reserves, guard)
  • be currently enrolled in an educational program at a regional or national accredited institution and is a member institution of CCME
  • first time associate, bachelor, or graduate degree seeker
  • have a minimum of 12 or more hours (units) with a cumulative 2.5 GPA (undergraduate) from the CCME member institution; minimum 6 or more hours (units) with a cumulative 3.0 GPA (graduate) from the CCME member institution
  • submit an unofficial college or university transcript from all colleges
  • submit two (2) letters of recommendation to be completed by persons unrelated to applicant, who will attest to their motivation, character, integrity and educational pursuit. One recommendation must be from a faculty member or academic advisor.
  • Essays will be judged on written content and writing skills, and should be at least 400-750 words in length. Applications that are incomplete or are from individuals that do not qualify will not be considered. Finalists will be required to provide documentation of service.