Guest blog by Lisa Williamson, National Education Committee Chairman
Our newly-installed National President Kathy Dungan’s focus is on veteran homelessness, particularly that of our women veterans. What can the American Legion Auxiliary’s education program do to concentrate in those efforts?
Encourage your department and units to create and award scholarships at their local level, keeping in mind gaps that could be filled. (These are only suggestions/examples, not all need be created. First, assess the need in your community! Scholarships should be crafted to suit your local potential scholarship recipient’s specific needs/wants).
Here are a few examples:
- Transitioning military/veterans: much of the training from a military career doesn’t translate to the civilian professional licenses or certifications needed. The GI Bill does not always cover these costs so they must be paid for out-of-pocket.
- Offer scholarships to transitioning military when GI Bill benefits have been exhausted, are not available, or are not fully funded, enabling receipt of license or certificates to obtain civilian occupations. Perhaps give preference to women veterans.
- Guardsmen: to be eligible for GI Bill education benefits, they must have 180 days of active service after initial entry training. Although some grants or tuition assistance may be available in your state, not all fees are covered and not all states offer these grants.
- Offer scholarships to guardsmen that are continuing their education, some online and most to advance their military career, to cover all fees when they do not qualify for GI Bill benefits or where GI Bill benefits are not fully funded. Perhaps give preference to women guardsmen.
- Military spouses: Military spouses who are transferred across state lines with their servicemember have a difficult time transferring licenses and certification. Although work has begun in all 50 states to make it easier for military spouses to transfer their licenses when relocating due to do a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) or military orders (licensure reciprocity), only a few states have begun to recognize licensure transfers. Even with that, each state’s requirements for transferring licensure may be different. Currently, military spouses are responsible for all costs stemming from professional license regulations, such as getting a state-specific teaching certificate, taking a state’s bar exam, or receiving a specific state’s nursing license. As a result, applications, tests, and license fees can costs thousands of dollars after every military move. A new measure, included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), gives the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Coast Guard permission to reimburse up to $500 of those fees. However, that won’t cover all costs associated with licensure transfer. Remember to include male spouses too, as it would likely impact women servicemembers.
- Offer scholarships to military spouses to help offset the costs of licensure transfer.
- Child care scholarship/grant: Affordable child care is an unmet need for veterans, particularly those that are single mothers. Partner with local community colleges, universities, and Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapters to determine the need and implementation of child care services for women veterans. Homeless women veterans consistently identify child care as a top unmet need toward education and employment. The high cost of child care is a common barrier for many jobseekers; we must help find a way to increase access to affordable child care.
- In place of getting into the child care business or opening the door for liability issues, establish a scholarship or grant made payable directly to the child care center for those veteran parents continuing their education, but child care is an ongoing issue. Again, perhaps give preference to women veterans.
Once scholarships are created, collaborate with SVA chapters, National Guard armories, and family readiness groups to promote, as well as vocational/technical schools, community colleges, veteran centers, department service officers, and other veteran service organizations. You can also work with ALA national security and public relations committees to help promote your scholarship.
Servicemembers possess unique skill sets that make them great candidates for many in-demand jobs, but the current system makes it difficult for servicemembers to obtain the licensing or credentialing needed for those jobs. Work with your legislative committees, both Legion and ALA, to advocate for GI Bill education funds to meet the needs of our current servicemembers, to include apprenticeships, and credentialing. Also ensure that existing veteran education benefits aren’t eroded or eliminated.
To begin, sign up to receive The American Legion’s action alerts, and you will receive an email when a vote is nearing Congress and the Legion Family needs you! The Legion will provide a pre-written message for you to send to your members of Congress with a few clicks. Sign up at capwiz.com/legion/mlm/signup. You’ll be on your way to advocating that veterans, servicemembers, and their families continue to receive education benefits. As well, the legislative agenda for the 115th Congress 2nd Session can be downloaded at www.legion.org/publications/226187/legislative-agenda-115th-congress-2nd-session. This brochure and a plethora of information concerning our military’s education benefits can be obtained at www.legion.org/legislative.
By working both steps to promote or create scholarships and lobby elected officials, you are tackling these gaps with a “1-2 Punch” approach; 1 – by offering the scholarship type(s) outlined, and 2 – by helping affect federal policy change through legislative efforts.
How the ALA education program has helped
The American Legion Auxiliary believes education is vital to democracy and that investing time and money to educate our youth is literally an investment in America’s future. Our education program fosters learning for children in our own communities, with our focus on the children of our military and veterans. We know the sacrifices of our veterans are the reason we live in freedom; easing the burden of the cost of their children’s education is one way we can express our gratitude to them.
But do we see the efforts of our toil? Each month, we hope to share a story that puts a face to the work our Legion Family does.
The following note of thanks was received from Children of Warriors National Presidents’ Scholarship recipient Derek Odgers, whose application was submitted by Department of Idaho John Webster Rhodes Unit 33:
“I would like to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to apply for your scholarship – and to thank you even more so for granting it to me. I will be sure that this money is put to good use in my education. Without it, paying for college would have been much more difficult. Again, thank you for enabling my dream to get education so that one day I may help America become a better place.”
ALA scholarship information and applications can be found at www.ALAforVeterans.org/Programs/Education, on the ALA education program Facebook group at www.Facebook.com/groups/1489034401420831, or you can contact National Headquarters at (317) 569-4500 or education@ALAforVeterans.org.
This was first published as an eBulletin.