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"Military Makeover" Highlights Unique Challenges for Veteran Students

Scholarship America addresses educational benefits on the most recent season of the Lifetime show

tague-scholarship-presentation.pngMilitary Makeover is a special mini-series from the Lifetime Channel’s Designing Spaces team, dedicated to members of the military and their loved ones. The host, retired United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant R. Lee Ermey (aka “The Gunny”) enlists the help of home renovators, designers, landscapers and many others to improve the living situation of deserving military families. Earlier this year, the show reached out to Scholarship America, inviting us to appear in a segment looking at educational benefits for veterans. The episode featuring that segment appeared last week, and you can watch it (along with the rest of the three-part series) at militarymakeover.tv.

By virtue of having served, veterans are eligible for government-sponsored education and support services— yet only about half use those benefits. In addition, Forever GI Bill support, while generous, doesn’t always cover the full cost of returning to higher education. To fill the gap, there is a wealth of resources available through the Yellow Ribbon campaign, veterans’ centers and private scholarships to help veterans make a successful transition from military service to a civilian career.

“This was a great opportunity to highlight support available through private scholarships. We immediately thought of Wells Fargo and its stellar Veteran Scholarship and Emergency Grant programs, which help transitioning military members stay in school and successfully complete higher education,” said Robert C. Ballard, president and CEO of Scholarship America.

Partnering To Help Veterans

Ballard and Jerry Quinn, Military & Veteran Programs Manager for Wells Fargo, were featured in the last episode of the September 2017 three-part series, which focused on making over the Florida home of Marine Corps veteran Sergeant Ed Tague and his wife Mandi. “Wells Fargo has been committed to helping military [members], veterans and their families succeed for more than 160 years,” Quinn said. “When we heard Ed Tague’s story and the example he sets in his community, we definitely wanted to support his pursuit of helping more veterans.”

Sgt. Tague served three tours in Iraq, seeing combat in the Second Battle of Fallujah, which engaged U.S. Marines in some of the heaviest combat since the Vietnam War. After returning from his final tour, Tague found his calling: serving other veterans as an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This fall Tague started work on a Master’s degree at Florida State University to advance within the VA and serve veterans in an even more impactful way. On Military Makeover, Wells Fargo presented Sgt. Tague with a $10,000 grant to support his graduate school studies.

[Watch us surprise Sgt. Tague with a $10,000 scholarship to continue pursuing his Master's Degree]

Since the Wells Fargo Veteran Scholarships and Emergency Grants Program launched in 2014, Wells Fargo and Scholarship America have awarded 22 scholarships and 25 emergency grants to support education and vocational training for veterans and the spouses of disabled veterans. In total, since 2012, Wells Fargo has donated more than $75 million to military and veteran causes. Earlier this year, Wells Fargo earned the coveted Dreams to Success Award for innovation for their scholarship and emergency grant program.

Resources and Opportunities for Veteran Scholars

In preparing for the show, Scholarship America reached out to several experts: Karen Gross, Senior Counsel, Finn Partners; Matthew Boulay, Kisco Foundation; and Walter Ochinko, Veterans Education Success. They contributed expertise and background information in a number of fields related to veterans’ education, and there was one thing they all emphasized: veterans need to be informed consumers. GI Bill benefits, once used up, are gone.

“There are lots of untapped resources for veterans, especially under the newly enacted Forever GI Bill,” Gross said. “The Transition Assistance Program was designed to help vets use the knowledge they gained in the military and is a place to start to create an effective transition to civilian life. Many veterans don’t take advantage of all the benefits and services available through the GI Bill and other federal resources, some of which are recently expanded and augmented. Benefits include tutoring support, payment directly to schools to cover tuition and fees, a housing stipend and a book allowance. Pell grants can be used if applicable and veterans are eligible for federal student loans if their benefits don’t cover all of their expenses. Yellow Ribbon schools also offer special financial aid packages to cover the gap between the GI Bill and expenses for some eligible veterans.”

“Know before you go,” Ochinko says. “If you become dissatisfied with the school you choose, the VA can’t restore your benefits.” He recommends the VA’s GI Bill College Comparison Tool which includes data on graduation rates, student loan debt levels, ability of graduates to repay loans and the number of complaints filed against schools.

Boulay recommends veterans connect with Student Veterans of America which has over 1,300 chapters at schools across America. On campus Vet Centers provide valuable peer-to-peer connections.

Other good resources:

“Our goal is to help veterans – and all students – succeed and attain their education and career goals,” said Ballard. “We were thrilled to help raise awareness of the many ways veterans contribute to the community as part of Military Makeover.”

Posted in veterans, military makeover

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