Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Vets’ education benefits come under scrutiny

In his Veterans Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, President Barack Obama said that after a decade of war, America’s heroes are coming home and he will welcome them back with the honor they deserve.

Boston University also welcomes veterans who are returning home with about 400 veterans enrolled, including spouses and dependents, in a variety of different programs, said Thomas Swift, manager of Veterans’ Services at BU.

Swift said he hopes reelected Obama will keep his promise in continuing to take care of America’s veterans.

“If they could continue the education benefits, it’s worked out well for a lot of veterans and it’s been helpful,” he said. “That’s tremendous, and I think that it’s well deserved.”

Obama pledged to continue meeting the needs of veterans as the wars in the Middle East come to an end.

“Three years ago, I promised your generation that when your tour comes to an end, when you see our flag, when you touch our soil, you’ll be welcomed home to an America that will forever fight for you, just as hard as you’ve fought for us,” Obama said. “And so long as I have the honor of serving as your commander-in-chief, that is the promise that we will never stop working to keep.”

The College of General Studies was specifically created for veterans in 1946, said Natalie McKnight, associate dean for faculty research and development at CGS.

“It was designed as a college for mature and able students, many of whom were veterans returning from service,” McKnight said. “It was meant to be a very rigorous and challenging curriculum really designed for older students to integrate them back into academia.”

Once there was no longer an influx of veterans returning from war, the school changed its curriculum, she said.

“When we were founded, we had mostly Korean War veterans,” McKnight said. “Then after a while you don’t have as many veterans returning and so you need to redesign and reshape your program for the majority for students who go to college who are in the 18- to 20-year-old bracket.”

McKnight said since the school started catering to younger students out of high school, they have gone through many names.

“In 1962 we took the form that we currently have with the team system and the core curriculum that we offer here really took shape at that point,” she said. “And then in 1992, we renamed the College of Basic Studies to the College of General Studies.”

Despite these promises, veterans still face plenty of issues when they come home including psychological, emotional or economic problems, said Andrew Bacevich, veteran and professor of international relations and history at BU.

“There are some military occupational specialties that rather easily can translate into civilian employment but there are many, many others that do not,” Bacevich said. “And so veterans face the challenge of acquiring the skills they need to become successful in the civilian economy either through job-training or through education.”

Obama addressed the issue of continuing education, an important one for a number of veterans and their families.

“Because you deserve to share in the opportunities you defend, we are making sure that the Post-9/11 GI Bill stays strong so you can earn a college education and pursue your dreams,” Obama said in his speech.

While Bacevich said he is not sure if all of the benefits and opportunities that Obama has promised are realistic, he said it does not matter because not every problem has a solution.

“The U.S. government, acting on our behalf as citizens should do whatever it possibly can do to ensure that veterans can get a fair shake in our society,” he said. “[It] doesn’t mean that in every instance the assistance offered by our government is going to be successful, but I think the effort is an entirely appropriate one.”

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