Since 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs has had representatives on college campuses to help veterans returning to school navigate through the financial paperwork and other red tape for veteran’s services. Schools provide the office space, while the department provides the staffing. But the Higher Education Veterans Assistance Program is set to expire on June 30, 2012.
HF384, sponsored by Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake), would repeal the sunset, allowing services to remain on campus. The House Veterans Services Division approved the bill Feb. 14 and referred it to the House State Government Finance Committee. It has no Senate companion.
Dettmer, a member of the U.S. Army Reserves who has two sons serving in the military, said the need for on-campus veterans’ services is only going to grow as soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The program has grown to more than 60 service centers on both public and private campuses, according to Donald Pfeffer, the department’s director of Higher Education Veterans Programs. Today, there are more than 12,000 residents eligible for veterans’ benefits and 7,000 new, first-time individuals sought help last year.
Lauri Brooke, a Becker County veterans’ service officer, said higher education is the No. 1 referral requested by those who call her office for help.
Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) said he supports extending the on-campus services. “As our involvement in these conflicts around the world winds down, the pressure on these services and on our public institutions of higher education increase, we shouldn’t be allowing this to sunset.”