Presentation Summaries (AccessComputing: Building Capacity for Veterans 2009)

Below are summaries from the CBI small group discussions.

Photo of Donald Parks, Pat Butin, and Michael Harris at a table

The New G.I. Bill: How Will It Affect Your Campus?

Presenter: Pat Outing, Des Moines Area Community College

Information regarding the new G.I. Bill has been subject to frequent updates and amendments. The federal government maintains up-to-date information about the bill at

The new G.I. Bill is also known as the post-9/11 Montgomery G.I. Bill or Chapter 33. It is very different than the previous G.I. Bill. Information about the new bill available at the time of the CBI suggests that each veteran on your campus may be entitled to different benefits according to length of service. Given that the benefits will vary for each student veteran, the administration of funds under the new bill may require increased administrative training and oversight. Institutions have until August 1, 2009, to develop a plan for implementation and administration of benefits.

Active duty service personnel will automatically be enrolled in the new bill. Service personnel who were already enrolled under the old bill may have a choice about which benefits to access.

The maximum tuition benefit covered under the new bill may be that of the most expensive public college or university in the state. It may also include a housing allowance that is based on the cost of living in the zip code area in which the school is located. Additionally, as of 2010, veterans' benefits will no longer be considered when determining eligibility for federal financial aid.

Under the new bill, tuition will be paid directly to the institution. One challenge may occur if a student drops a class or reduces his or her course load after tuition has been paid; in this case, the institution would typically refund the tuition dollars directly to the student. If this occurs under the new bill, it would be the responsibility of the student to return the refund to the Veterans Administration. This system could create confusion for students and/or jeopardize their eligibility to continue in school.

Opportunities in Computing

Presenter: Ed Lazowska, Department of Computer Science, University of Washington

Dr. Lazowska shared background information on the field of computing, how it has advanced, and opportunities that exist for students with disabilities, including veterans, in computing and IT careers.

He described how computing advancements have shifted how we live, work, learn, and communicate. Advances in computing have aided the progress of research in other disciplines, powered our economy, and changed how business is conducted.

The impact of IT in a wide variety of fields is continually increasing. Specifically, developments in robotics have enhanced the ability of people with disabilities to function independently. However, there are many IT problems yet to tackle. These outstanding issues will create new opportunities for careers in computing. In Washington State, computing jobs constitute five of the ten fastest growing fields and are the highest paid jobs in these high growth fields. The vast majority of all new jobs in engineering are going to be in computer science and, therefore, students who are trained in computing will be highly marketable.

Computing fields are much broader than people often think. There is more to computing than programming. People who are trained in computer science pursue diverse careers in which they apply their relevant skills. Two out of three computing jobs are not for IT producers like Microsoft or Google, but rather in businesses, banks, and other organizations. Working in the computing industry can be creative, interactive, and empowering.

The importance of diversity in computing fields is beginning to be recognized. Currently, the majority of people in the field are white males who don't always address the variety of cultural interactions with technology. A diverse workforce, including people with disabilities, produces better products because more perspectives are addressed in their development.

From Field to Family: Our Perspective

Presenters: Steve and Lisa Tice, MHN Health Net

Steve and Lisa Tice shared their personal story of the transition they experienced when Steve arrived home from the Vietnam War. Their presentation increased audience awareness of the daily struggles that veterans may face. Many issues that recent veterans face are similar to those faced by veterans of past wars. It may be helpful for the families of recent veterans to hear the stories of other families who have been through similar situations.

The ABC Nightline interview, "Star of the Family," illustrates Steve and Lisa's story. Steve served in the Vietnam War and was severely injured. When he returned home, Steve struggled to be a "regular person." He married Lisa, had a child, and went to college but his adjustment was difficult. He and Lisa shared their story of coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical injuries, and adjustment issues. They shared issues that many families cope with such as anger, pain, and abuse.

Steve and Lisa noted that some injuries from current conflicts are different than those of previous wars. New medical advances mean that more soldiers are surviving battle injuries that previously would have been fatal. Many soldiers are returning home with brain injuries, spinal injuries, blindness, and amputations.

They also mentioned that understanding unique stressors facing veterans' families is important. Many families are facing multiple deployments and relocations, which uproots them from their community.

Online resources recommended by Steve and Lisa for veterans and their families include:

Best Practices: Higher Education Consultation and Outreach

Presenter: Peter Schmidt, Washington Department of Veterans Affairs

Peter Schmidt discussed best practices for serving veterans in postsecondary education. He suggested that the most important thing an institution can do is ensure that faculty are prepared to work with students who arrive in the classroom with a diverse set of experiences.

Some of the ways that campuses can become more veteran-friendly are to:

  • develop a veterans association or club to provide a gathering place for veterans
  • listen to veterans and include them in the dialog about the issues they face on campus
  • build a monument to honor veterans and show that the campus is veteran friendly and aware of veterans' issues
  • remind faculty to be sensitive to veteran issues when they choose examples to share in the classroom
  • assess the strengths and weaknesses of the institution, including what resources are available for veterans and how information about those resources is communicated
  • create a veterans resource team
  • pay attention to terminology used in reference to the team; for example, using "counsel" versus "support" terminology may be better received by veterans
  • include resources for veterans in the main college catalog or guide
  • provide campus resource information in local veterans centers and hospitals
  • publish websites to reach out to young veterans

Military Cultural Competence

Presenter: Scott Swaim, Valley Cities Counseling

Scott Swaim noted that an important aspect of serving student veterans effectively is to understand the culture that exists within the military. Many student veterans, especially those recently discharged from the military, are used to living within a very structured environment. An understanding of this culture as well as military traditions can help to ease the student veteran's transition to campus life.

A few important things to remember are:

  • There is an instant bond between veterans, even between those who served in different branches of the service and in different wars;
  • Some language that may be considered unacceptable on campus is commonly used in military life;
  • Time commitments in civilian life are very different and less structured than in military life;
  • Rank structure is very important and veterans are used to knowing who is in charge and who to go to for answers and direction;
  • "Battle mind" is very different than "home mind" and the things that kept soldiers alive in battle are the same things that often keep them from reintegrating effectively at home.

To learn more about military life and culture, postsecondary staff and faculty can attend civilian orientation days at their local military base. Other resources include the Veterans Administration (VA) and Vets Centers. Find your local VA facility by visiting

PTSD On Campus

Presenter: Scott Swaim, Valley Cities Counseling

There are many things to keep in mind when working with veterans with PTSD, including the following:

  • Individual experiences are unique to each veteran. When counseling, keep in mind the range of experiences that each veteran may have had in the military;
  • Remember that mental health issues are not always addressed in the military;
  • Understand that spouses and children are also affected by military service. Specifically, be aware of family impacts and stressors associated with PTSD;
  • Provide community and other support to veterans and their families through networks with local veterans organizations and other campus resources.

Lessons Learned: Job Placement and Transition into Civilian Careers

Presenter: Retired Major General James Collins

Veterans leave military service with a wide range of skills and experience that may be useful to them in civilian careers. However, many struggle to find employment that is suitable to their personalities, skills, and interests.

Several ways of helping veterans gain employment include the following:

  • Teach veterans how to develop a strong network. Discovering satisfying employment opportunities is easier with a large network of people who know your skill set and career interests;
  • Do not duplicate or replicate the efforts of other groups on your campus. Instead, discover what activities other groups are doing and develop a partnership with them that will increase the effectiveness of activities;
  • Provide a listing of internship opportunities for student veterans. Internships are a great way for them to gain experience in their fields of interest and may lead to permanent employment opportunities;
  • Create mentoring opportunities for student veterans. This will allow them insight into the culture and skill requirements for the career fields they are pursuing. It may also create opportunities for networking;
  • Promote the qualities of veterans that make them excellent employees, including experience in their specialty, leadership skills, diversity of experience, teamwork and team building skills, and work ethic;
  • Encourage companies to identify veterans in the hiring process and educate job recruiters on how to translate military service into job experience and skills.

Universal Design

Sheryl Burgstahler, AccessComputing

Universal design is a design strategy that addresses the diverse abilities and other characteristics of potential users of a product or environment. When applied, products and environments are usable by the broadest range of individuals without special adaptations. Suggestions for applying universal design to technology, instruction, services, and physical spaces were presented. These suggestions included:

  • Separate entrances can segregate people with disabilities. Ideally, individuals with and without disabilities should use the same entrance;
  • Make signs descriptive and appropriate. Find ways to use language that is inclusive;
  • In images on websites and brochures, include people with diverse characteristics with respect to race, gender, age, and disability;
  • Provide multiple modes of content. For example, consider providing a text document to accompany audio content;
  • Provide work surfaces that are adjustable or that vary in height;
  • Prepare all staff to work with all participants by offering training in universal design;
  • Consider making more accessible facilities and classes;
  • For more information about the application of universal design within postsecondary institutions, consult the Center for Universal Design in Education.

AccessComputing offers funding for minigrants for events that support AccessComputing objectives, including the application of universal design. Visit Apply for an AccessComputing Minigrant for more information.