Veterans find support and like-minds through Veteran Student Services
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Written by: Emily Hollingshead
Photo: (L-R) Graham Montgomery and Chase Humes are work-study students at the Office of Veteran Student Services.
Between juggling work, continuing their education and life as a civilian, student-veterans may feel that untangling their GI Bill ® education benefits is just too much to take on. Fortunately, Seminole State College of Florida’s Office of Veteran Student Services is a one-stop source for understanding and utilizing the benefits available for our over 1,000 student-veterans and dependents.
The department can help in more ways than you know, as two student-veterans came to find out. Graham Montgomery and Chase Humes came to the Office of Veteran Student Services for help with their own benefits, but stayed to help others through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) work-study program.
Montgomery is close to completing his associate degree and plans to continue his education by delving into the world of sustainability at the University of South Florida. Seminole State’s nearby location drew him to the College, and he knew he could knock out his General Education courses at half the cost than if he had gone to a larger university. He came to the Office of Veteran Student Services for assistance with his own benefits as he is now a reservist for the Marines. “They didn’t really make it a point in the military to explain how to access your educational benefits,” said Montgomery. “And I wanted to help veterans like me pay for school.”
The first thing I tell veterans when they call is if this is their first time using their benefits to go to va.gov and apply for your Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The VA will look you up and see what you are eligible for and that takes about 30 days.Graham Montgomery.
“The first thing I tell veterans when they call is if this is their first time using their benefits to go to va.gov and apply for your Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The VA will look you up and see what you are eligible for and that takes about 30 days,” explained Montgomery. “That doesn’t mean you can’t enroll and get started. Students can start and defer their payments, get their COE and then share it with us.”
He says that veterans would probably be surprised to find out just how much is available to them, including the vocational readiness benefit, which helps covers veterans’ educational costs associated with if they have sustained an injury which prevents them from doing the job that they originally trained for, even if they had already used their GI Bill benefits. Beyond the assistance with his benefits, Montgomery found that the Office of Veteran Student Services and being in the work-study program has helped him stay focused on his coursework.
“As far as transitioning out of the military, you have to stay busy,” advises Humes. A veteran from the Marines, Humes also found his way to the Office of Veteran Student Services when he had trouble with his housing allowance through the GI Bill. He was surprised to find that the office was on campus and working from the Student Center at the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus. After that, it was a short jump to working in the office himself as a fellow work-study student.
As far as transitioning out of the military, you have to stay busy.Chase Humes.
Being able to physically go and talk to someone in the department was a huge help to Humes, and he encourages fellow veterans to do the same, saying it was helpful to be around people who understand the mentality of the military. “You are going from an environment, whether you were in it for four, five or 20 years where you were around 50 plus people a day, moving mountains and just constantly on the move,” Humes said. “Going from that to a much slower tempo, it can put people in a bad mental frame.” The department helps connect veterans to resources that help them transition to civilian careers and encourages them to contact the Veterans Crisis Outreach if they are in need.
Humes is currently working toward his associate degree and hopes to continue at Seminole State through the nursing program, but is keeping his future plans open. He says the Office of Veteran Student Services has helped keep him on track and “locked in” while it assists veterans in taking advantage of all the benefits their hard work has earned.
Partnership with Community College of the Air Force
Seminole State College of Florida and the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) have signed a partnership allowing the College to offer a General Education Mobile (GEM) program. Through the partnership, the College will offer 18 online General Education classes to more than 300,000 United States Air Force and United State Space Force personnel pursuing a CCAF Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree.
Seminole State College’s Office of Veteran Student Services is dedicated to serving as a one-stop source for veterans to secure, interpret and exercise their VA education benefits. Seminole State serves about 1,000 veterans and their dependents each year and has been named a Military Friendly School since 2012. For more information, visit seminolestate.edu/veterans.