VA Secretary Shinseki talks to RIC student vets about
Post 9/11 GI Bill, and coming “all the way” home

Eric Shinseki addresses student veterans, including
this RIC Student Veterans Organization member.
Everyone who has served in the military carries some baggage, but the question is, “what do you do about it?” asked Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Shinseki met with RIC student veterans on April 8 in the Student Union for a roundtable discussion on the impact of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and to hear how the student veterans are faring in the academic arena following military service.

“How many of you will graduate in four years?” he asked the group of about 50 veterans. Only a few raised their hands.

Shinseki talked directly to the vets for more than two hours and wanted no media in the room so the students and veterans’ representatives could speak openly and candidly about their experiences.

His message to the students, who are receiving the benefits of the most generous GI Bill in history, was that obtaining an education and graduating is a mission that they must “never quit.”

Eric K. Shinseki
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Retired U.S. Army General Eric K. Shinseki was sworn in as the seventh Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Jan. 21, 2009.

Shinseki served as Chief of Staff, United States Army, from 1999 to June 11, 2003, and retired from active duty on Aug. 1, 2003. During his tenure, he initiated the Army Transformation Campaign to address both the emerging strategic challenges of the early 21st century and the need for cultural and technological change in the United States Army.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he led the Army during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and integrated the pursuit of the Global War on Terrorism with Army Transformation, successfully enabling the Army to continue to transform while at war.

Prior to becoming the Army’s Chief of Staff, Secretary Shinseki served as the Vice Chief of Staff from 1998 to 1999. He previously served simultaneously as Commanding General, United States Army, Europe and Seventh Army; Commanding General, NATO Land Forces, Central Europe, both headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany; and Commander of the NATO-led Stabilization Force, Bosnia-Herzegovina, headquartered in Sarajevo.

Earlier in the day, Shinseki visited the VA Regional Office in Providence to review new methods to process benefits claims are tested, and also spoke with Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr. Kerr asked Shinseki about the often-heard comment that troops returning home today are facing more challenges than Vietnam vets.

Himself a Vietnam vet, Shinseki’s response as reported in Kerr’s April 9 column was, “Today, they all get a welcome home. We missed that…but there is that prolonged repetitive intensity that they’re dealing with now that we never had – that living on the edge, day after day.”

Shinseki said that his office works tirelessly, and often manually without the aid of technology, to process claims for vets. Vets have to ask the right questions and find out what the GI Bill can do for them, he said.

About 240 RIC student veterans are taking advantage of the educational benefit afforded by the bill that became available last fall.

RIC was named a Military Friendly School for 2010 by G.I. Jobs magazine, and deemed one of the schools in the nation to embrace America’s veterans as students.

Last November, RIC opened a Veterans Resource Center to serve as a clearinghouse of information for all student veterans and their families. The center provides accurate and complete information about degree requirements, and refers students to the appropriate resources to make them personally and academically successful.

RIC has 90 academic programs approved for veterans, and employs a VA certifying official who verifies enrollment for initial and continuing veterans educational benefits.

“The center is another resource available to student veterans in RIC’s Student Veterans organization,” said Monica Darcy, coordinator of veterans programs at RIC.

The college also has an interdisciplinary VA Work Group that meets during the academic year to identify ways to keep RIC a veteran-friendly place. Several departments across campus participate in the discussion of veterans' issues, requirements, and policies so the college is better prepared to assist veterans, according to Darcy,

Shinseki told the student vets that he is proud of them, having made it through the service, the system, and into the classroom.