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Student-veteran outreach to mobilize enrollment in veterans affairs

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A mobile unit sits in a Columbus parking lot, ready to assist veterans and servicemen and women in the area. Courtesy: Christine Alley/ clerk of Columbus Mobile Outreach

A mobile unit sits in a Columbus parking lot, ready to assist veterans and servicemen and women in the area. Courtesy: Christine Alley/ clerk of Columbus Mobile Outreach

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is making its services more available to student military veterans by bringing a portable outreach unit to the Ohio State campus.

Resembling a bloodmobile, the mobile unit is staffed with nurses, nurse practitioners and volunteers to provide services ranging from medical care and flu shots to mental health screenings.

VA is a government-run system that administers benefits and services, such as health care, to assist service members, veterans and their dependents or survivors.

“Some soldiers can be in some pretty dire situations of mental health, so the VA has different things set up to help,” said Yannis Hadjiyannis, a current member of the Army Reserve and a fifth-year in molecular genetics. “The VA providing medical assistance to veterans is one of the best things that they can do.”

The mobile-outreach unit makes many stops each month and has eight planned in central Ohio for the month of December.

The stops include OSU and Columbus State Community College, as well as hospitals in Columbus.

The mobile units sent to campus try to accommodate student veterans in an efficient manner that will take less than an hour of their time.

“Even with a tight schedule, they have time between class to come here and enroll or just find more information out about it,” said Christine Alley, a clerk of the VA mobile outreach program.

These services are free for all veterans with the exception of some co-payments.

“Medical care is income-based,” Alley said. “Student veterans do not typically have a large income since they are in school, so now is a great time to enroll.”

According to the Office of Military and Veterans Services’ website, OSU currently has more than 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students who are veterans, dependents, National Guard, active duty and Army Reserve members.

Along with medical assistance, the outreach programs can help veterans apply for benefits such as the GI Bill, which provides scholarships for students who served in the military.

“The GI Bill covers my student health insurance at Ohio State,” said Dan Corrigan, a second-year in exploration who served as a sergeant in the Marine Corps. “That’s the biggest advantage of being enrolled in the VA.”

After enrolling for VA benefits in the mobile unit, student veterans will be contacted regarding their eligibility for assistance programs — such as the GI Bill — via telephone and email.

However, some veterans are hesitant to enroll in VA programs because of doubt or lack of knowledge regarding assistance programs.

“There are some guys who don’t know about Veterans Affairs,” Corrigan said. “Stopping in an outreach vehicle for a few minutes could really help them out.”

Hadjiyannis said the military mindset could also be at fault for lack of enrollment.

“That kind of culture where saying that something is wrong is a big defeat (and) can be really negative, which could be reason why some do not enroll,” he said.

Alley said she believes that the outreach program is appealing to student veterans because it strays away from typical military outlets.

“They come in here and it’s a small and intimate atmosphere that isn’t crowded,” she said.

The next date that the mobile unit will be on campus is Dec. 13.

“This is a benefit they fought for. It doesn’t have to do with the military; it is one of the benefits that, as a civilian, they deserve,” Alley said.

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