Kean University Student-Veteran Receives K-9 Service Dog

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K-9 Keen and Jason Pryor stand outside in a group photos with student body members

Jason Pryor of Elizabeth received the K-9, named Keen, as a gift from the Kean Office of Student Government.

A special Veterans Day ceremony was held on Kean University’s Union campus as senior Jason Pryor, a U.S. Army veteran, introduced the K-9 service dog that he received through an on-campus fundraiser.

Pryor, a senior from Elizabeth majoring in exercise science, did tours in Iraq and Honduras and suffers from PTSD. He received the K-9, named Keen, at the start of the Fall semester as a gift from the Kean Office of Student Government.

“Being with Keen has taught me to be more patient,” said Pryor, whose dog accompanies him to class. “Keen is used as a measure to help prevent me from going through the symptoms and effects of spiraling down, by me tending to his needs and having him tend to me.”

Kean is ranked first in the nation among large public schools for its programs supporting student-veterans, according to the Military Friendly Schools survey.

Student Government raised nearly $20,000 to support service dogs through Rebuilding Warriors, a volunteer non-profit organization whose mission is to provide trained service dogs to veterans. The bulk of the funds raised went toward training Pryor’s dog, and the rest was donated to Rebuilding Warriors to help train other K-9 dogs.

At the ceremony held outside Miron Student Center, Vito Zajda, director of Veteran Student Services at Kean and a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, called Pryor a remarkable student.

“He has been a big support and influential person in our program,” Zajda said. “He has helped open our eyes about how the University can best support its vets.”

Vice President of Rebuilding Warriors Jeff Mullins, also a veteran, said post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can’t be seen by others. ”It’s invisible, stays with you your entire life, and it’s not easy sometimes,” he said. “Our goal is to provide veterans and first responders with a service dog to help them achieve their new normal.”

The University’s Veterans Day event included a color guard, a performance of the national anthem by the Kean Gospel Choir, and the presentation of other honors.

Juan Leon Torres, a senior from Spotswood also studying exercise science and a U.S. Navy veteran, received the 2019 Kean Veteran’s Award for OutstandingK-9 Keen service dog to U.S. Army Veteran pictured sitting next to his new owner Mentor. He develops transition opportunities and initiatives, and mentors a student-veteran each semester.

“Being a veteran and going back to school is super hard because you go from one community to a different lifestyle,” Torres said.

Zajda noted that it is important to support veterans at all times. “The importance of Veterans Day is to recognize that it’s 365 days a year, as veterans go through different highs and lows in their lives,” he said.

K-9 Keen, the service dog accompanying student-veteran Jason Pryor (pictured at top, left of center, in red shirt), is part of the Kean University community. The Kean Office of Student Government raised funds to donate the dog.

About Kean University

Founded in 1855, Kean University is one of the largest metropolitan institutions of higher education in the region, with a richly diverse student, faculty and staff population. Kean continues to play a key role in the training of teachers and is a hub of educational, technological and cultural enrichment serving more than 16,000 students. The University’s six undergraduate colleges offer more than 50 undergraduate degrees over a full range of academic subjects. The Nathan Weiss Graduate College offers six doctoral degree programs and more than 80 options for graduate study leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas or certifications. With campuses in Union, Toms River, Jefferson and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, Kean University furthers its mission by providing an affordable and accessible world-class education. Visit kean.edu.

COVID-Related Help Available for Veterans through DAV

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Older veterans and those with disabilities are a particularly vulnerable population and DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is offering help while they shelter at home during the COVID-19 crisis.

There are three ways veterans can get help, while still allowing them and others to maintain social distancing:

1. VolunteerforVeterans.org: Veterans needing assistance with everyday tasks, such as groceries or yard work, can use a free service to request such help. DAV’s VolunteerforVeterans.org connects veterans with community volunteers. Veterans are encouraged to request their needs, and families and other individuals may also register on behalf of a veteran.

2. Virtual Job Fairs: Veterans who have lost their jobs or are looking for meaningful employment can participate in free virtual career fairs that DAV is holding throughout the country.

Applicants can also get free job-seeking advice, such as tips for dressing for an online interview and best practices on writing a resume. A list of these career fairs can be found at dav.org/veterans/employment-resources/job-search-events/.

3. VA Benefits & Other Resources: DAV offers a range of additional services, such as connecting veterans with mental health professionals and helping them navigate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to access their military and health benefits. Support is also provided for families of veterans and their caregivers.

To access these services, visit dav.org/veterans/resources/ or call (877) I AM A VET (1-877-426-2838).

Coronavirus update from the VA regarding appointments, visits

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VA has implemented an aggressive public health response to protect and care for Veterans in the face of this emerging health risk. We are working directly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal partners to monitor the outbreak of the coronavirus.

VA has administered over 100 COVID-19 tests nationwide while taking aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

These measures include outreach to Veterans and staff, clinical screening at VA health care facilities, and protective procedures for patients admitted to community living centers and spinal cord injury units.

What should Veterans do?

Any Veteran with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath should immediately contact their local VA facility. VA urges Veterans to call before visiting – you can find contact information for your closest VA facility.

Alternatively, Veterans can sign into My HealtheVet to send a secure message to VA or use telehealth options to explain their condition and receive a prompt diagnosis.

Calling first helps us protect you, medical staff, and other patients. Ask your VA health care team about the option of care by phone or video instead of an in-person visit.

We also ask that visitors who feel unwell postpone their visits to VA facilities.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the latest coronavirus information, including Symptoms, How To Protect Yourself, and What To Do If You Are Sick.

You can also read about VA’s public health response.

Continue on to The Department of Veterans Affairs to read the complete article.

Suicide Prevention: One Marine’s Story

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Jason Mosel remembers the hardest day of his life. It was the day his friend and fellow Marine, Geoffrey Morris, was blown apart by a rocket-propelled grenade. This memory almost killed him.

Mosel served three tours of duty, two of them in Iraq. After he came home, he thought he was the same person he’d always been. But his wife, his friends, and his family knew better. As time passed, Mosel tried to ignore the fact that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He was drinking too much, and all the while his mind was slowly convincing him to do what nearly two dozen soldiers and veterans do every day in the U.S.

And in 2005, Mosel very nearly became part of that grim statistic.

But Mosel’s life began to change in 2013, when he participated in an obstacle course that pushed him physically and mentally.

As a Marine accustomed to adapting to survive, he found a way to fight against his suicidal thoughts: burpees.

He discovered that he could build his own recovery through extreme exercise.

“I did not know this moment would change my life,” Mosel says. “I found something that was missing, a community of people and a sense of accomplishment by pushing myself to a limit that I didn’t think was possible, then going beyond that.”

Mosel attempted to set a new Guinness World Record of 5,000 chest-to-ground burpees in 12 hours, stopping only to eat, hydrate, go to the bathroom, and rest for a minute or two between sets.

But he refused to stop.

He had made a promise to his friend Morris, a promise to fellow soldiers and veterans, a promise to himself.

But why? Mosel said that extreme physical activity saved him. A strong body helped him build a strong mind.

He realized he couldn’t change the past but could control the future. “Slowly I started to put down the bottle and lace up my running shoes,” Mosel said.

“Though it sounds cut and dry, it was anything but that.”

Mosel described the daily battle he endured while fighting off his demons and confronting himself in the mirror. His turning point came through acceptance of his new reality. He emphasizes that this is what drives him to push harder and overcome the inevitable obstacles life throws in his way.

VA Maryland Health Care System Invites Women to Continue Making History with VA

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This Women’s History Month, the VA Maryland Health Care System invites women veterans to continue making history with VA. “For the Department of Veterans Affairs, Women’s History Month means more than just celebrating our women veterans – it means making sure they’re proud of the role we play in the remaining chapters of their story,” said VA Chief of Staff Pam Powers. “We will continue to build on the legacy that America’s women veterans have carved out by listening to them, respecting them, and serving them with the dignity this country owes them.”

Women comprise about 10 percent of the veterans VA serves nationwide, and that number is set to increase, as women are about 20 percent of our military forces.

For decades, VA’s principal patient base was men. But today’s VA facilities provide comprehensive primary care for women, as well as gynecology, specialty care and mental health services. In the last fiscal year, 41 percent of all women veterans were enrolled in VA, and we expect that number to keep climbing as customer service and patient experiences for women veterans continue to improve.

Since VA started tracking outpatient satisfaction in 2017, we’ve seen women’s trust in VA climb higher and higher. In 2019, 83.8 percent of female veterans trusted the care they got at VA, and initial data in 2020 is on pace to see that trust score rise to nearly 85 percent.

“The VA Maryland Health Care System offers a host of services geared toward women veterans,” said Zelda McCormick, Women Veterans Program Manager at the VA Maryland Health Care System.

Services include, but are not limited to designated women’s health providers throughout our facilities offering primary care for acute and chronic conditions, preventive care such as immunizations, cancer screenings, and gender specific care, including family planning and preconception counseling, and osteoporosis screening and management.

In addition, women veterans can access wellness programs such as health coaching, peer support and community resources, among others.

“Although we don’t deliver babies at our facilities, we do support obstetric care delivered by community partners and provide women veterans with necessary items such as breast pumps,” said McCormick noting that the health care system has hosted three annual baby showers for expectant or new mothers enrolled in VA health care.

The VA Maryland Health Care System also offers mental health and specialty care, providing treatment for depression, mood and anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use, addiction treatments, intimate partner violence, in addition to management of chronic and complex conditions.

The VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) provides a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, rehabilitative, mental health and outpatient care to veterans at three medical centers and five outpatient clinics located throughout the state. More than 52,000 veterans from various generations receive care from VAMHCS annually.

Nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art technology and quality patient care, VAMHCS is proud of its reputation as a leader in veterans’ health care, research and education. It costs nothing for veterans to enroll for health care with the VA Maryland Health Care System and it could be one of the more important things a veteran can do.

To enroll for VA health care, interested veterans can call 877-222-8387 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or they can visit va.gov and click on “Apply now for VA health care.”

SOURCE: VA Maryland Health Care System

Service Dogs: A Solution to The Veteran Suicide Crisis

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By Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO, American Humane

The number of military service members and veterans in the United States is declining, but their suicide rates are increasing.

It’s clear that addressing the military and veteran suicide epidemic will take bold new solutions beyond marginal improvements to the status quo. All ideas to protect these brave men and women off the battlefield should be on the table.

One low-risk, high-reward potential solution is pairing combat vets with service dogs who are specially trained to mitigate post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which commonly affect ex service members and contribute to suicide.

About 1 veteran in 6 suffers from PTSD. According to research in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety, 28 percent of those who reported a past traumatic event had attempted suicide. Another study found that those with TBI, which affects about the same portion of veterans, are nearly twice as likely to die by suicide.

There’s long been anecdotal evidence that service dogs can help treat these mental health afflictions.

Service dogs can be trained to perform countless tasks that mitigate these conditions, including retrieving medication, searching homes for perceived threats, grounding handlers during a stressful episode, aiding with memory-related tasks, and even turning on lights during a night terror.

Now emerging scientific research is also pointing to the promise that service dogs offer. A Purdue University study released last year found that veterans coping with PTSD performed better on a variety of mental health and emotional well-being metrics, including reduced symptoms of PTSD and depression if they were paired with a service dog. Veterans with service dogs also missed work less and performed better while there than their dogless counterparts.

A separate Purdue study also released last year measured the stress-mitigating hormone cortisol in PTSD veterans with and without service dogs. Those with service dogs produced more cortisol than those without, mimicking the amount expected in adults without PTSD. Those in the service dog group also reported less anger, less anxiety, and better sleep.

While these studies didn’t directly test those with TBI, its similar symptoms suggest significant promise for suicidal vets with this condition as well. Unfortunately, waiting lists for veterans in need of service dogs are long. The process is time-consuming and expensive, costing as much as $30,000 per dog. With the VA refusing to endorse service dogs as a PTSD and TBI treatment–while awaiting the results of its own in-depth study – funding is scarce.

In the meantime, nonprofit groups are doing what they can to fill the void. For instance, American Humane’s Pups4Patriots program finds dogs in need of homes and trains them to become service animals for military veterans struggling with the invisible wounds of war, potentially saving lives at both ends of the leash.

Dogs have always boosted emotional well-being. Now studies are confirming what veterans have been saying for years: Service dogs can have an even greater impact. With the veteran suicide rate rising unabated, it’s time to stop tinkering and pursue creative new solutions to this crisis.

Nothing has so much potential lifesaving impact as greater access to service dogs.

Source: American Humane

Suicides among U.S. Special Operations Command tripled in 2018 while suicides among active duty Marine Corps and the Navy reached a 10-year high. The veteran suicide rate is 50% higher than the general population, adjusting for age and gender.

The veteran suicide rate increased by 26% between 2005 and 2016, the latest year that data is available.

More than 6,000 veterans commit suicide each year.
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

Treatments for PTSD

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PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.

If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.

If thoughts and feelings from a life-threatening event are upsetting you or causing problems in your life, you may have PTSD.

Here’s the good news: you can get treatment for PTSD—and it works. For some people, treatment can get rid of PTSD altogether. For others, it can make symptoms less intense. Treatment also gives you the tools to manage symptoms so they don’t keep you from living your life. PTSD treatment can turn your life around—even if you’ve been struggling for years.

Therapy

PTSD therapy has three main goals:

  • Improve your symptoms
  • Teach you skills to deal with it
  • Restore your self-esteem

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Teaches you to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma. It involves talking with your provider about your negative thoughts and doing short writing assignments.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Teaches you how to gain control by facing your negative feelings. It involves talking about your trauma with a provider and doing some of the things you have avoided since the trauma.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Helps you process and make sense of your trauma. It involves calling the trauma to mind while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound (like a finger waving side to side, a light, or a tone).

Stress Inoculation Training

Talk therapy that can help you recognize and change incorrect and/or negative thoughts that have been influencing your behavior. Coping skills are also used such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation training and role playing.

Alternative Treatments for Veterans With PTSD

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health programs offer alternative techniques with conventional therapies while many non-profit organizations throughout the country have seen improvement in vets through alternative measures.

These six alternative treatments are showing increased popularity for veterans with PTSD:

  1. Acupuncture—A 2014 study of 55 service members concluded that acupuncture “was effective for reducing PTSD symptoms.” Patients using acupuncture with traditional treatment “showed significantly greater improvements” over patients who had usual care only, the Healthcare Medicine Institute reported. Acupuncture appears to be a safe treatment to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, the researchers noted.
  1. Yoga and meditation—These practices have been used in the military and at VA medical centers, according to Social Work Today. Yoga helps to relieve pain and bring comfort throughout the body. Yoga and meditation need to fit the needs of patients who have experienced trauma, including the creation of a safe space to provide relaxation for an overactive nervous system.
  1. Service dogs—Bonding with animals provides benefits for veterans with PTSD. A program under Warrior Canine Connection has vets with the disorder training service dogs for fellow vets afflicted with physical injuries. It provides veterans with companionship but also results in stress reduction, reduced blood pressure, and improved relationships.
  1. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)—A self-healing method, it combines cognitive therapy and exposure therapy, which exposes patients to anxiety sources without causing any danger, with acupressure on points throughout the body. One controlled trial found more than 85 percent of veterans with PTSD had no obvious symptoms after six sessions of EFT, according to the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.
  1. Swimming with sea creatures—Dolphin swims are enjoyable for the population at large, but they are also used as alternative treatments for vets with PTSD. At the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, veterans swim with whale sharks and are accompanied by dive masters in a huge tank, The New York Times The sharks get their name from their immense size and mainly eat plankton. The quiet underwater environment helps vets forget bad memories.
  1. Outdoor therapies—Horseback riding, hiking, and rafting are among activities that can help vets overcome symptoms of PTSD. The Rites of Passage Ranch Long Term Care Program in Washington state combines cognitive behavioral therapy with relaxation exercises, physical activity, and healthy food.

You’re not alone

Going through a traumatic event is not rare. At least half of Americans have had a traumatic event in their lives. Of people who have had trauma, about 1 in 10 men and 2 in 10 women will develop PTSD. There are some things that make it more likely you’ll develop PTSD — for example, having very intense or long-lasting trauma, getting hurt, or having a strong reaction to the event (like shaking, throwing up, or feeling distant from your surroundings). It’s also more common to develop PTSD after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault. But there’s no way to know for sure who will develop PTSD.

Where can I go to get help?

If you’re a Veteran, check with the VA about whether you can get treatment there. Visit va.gov/directory/guide/PTSD.asp to find a VA PTSD program near you. If you’re looking for care outside the VA, ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health care provider who specializes in PTSD treatment, or visit findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ to search for providers in your area.

Get Help If You’re in Crisis
If you feel like you might hurt yourself or someone else:
• Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) anytime to talk to a crisis counselor. Press “1” if you are a Veteran. The call is confidential (private) and free.
• Chat online with a crisis counselor anytime at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
You can also call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

For more information and resources visit the National Center for PTSD website at: ptsd.va.gov

Find out about PTSD and PTSD treatment from Veterans who’ve been there at: ptsd.va.gov/aboutface

Need Money for Higher Education?

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Don’t think you can afford college? Think again. In addition to military tuition assistance and Department of Veterans Affairs education programs, numerous loans and opportunities are available to help you fund the next step in your education.

Federal grants and loans

Check out these grants and loans to help cover education expenses:

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the required application from the Department of Education. It determines your eligibility for any form of federal financial aid. Federal Pell Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. The grant is typically awarded to an undergraduate student who has not yet earned a bachelor’s or professional degree. In some cases, a student enrolled in a post-bachelor’s teacher certificate program may receive a Pell Grant.
  • Direct Stafford Loans are low-interest loans to help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, or a trade, career or technical school.
  • PLUS loans are federal loans that eligible graduate or professional degree students and parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for education expenses.
  • Federal Perkins Loans are low-interest loans for both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunities Grant Program, or FSEOG, provides need-based grants to help low-income undergraduate students finance the cost of higher education. Priority is given to recipients of the Federal Pell Grant.

Colleges and universities

More than 2,600 colleges and universities worldwide offer educational opportunities to military members. Service Members Opportunity Colleges, or SOC, a group of more than 1,900 postsecondary schools, provides opportunities to service members and their families to complete college degrees as they live the mobile military life.

Here are some useful resources to help you plan your postsecondary education:

  • TA DECIDE, a new Department of Defense tool, allows you to compare information about education institutions and costs.
  • Financial Aid Shopping Sheet helps you compare higher education institutions to make informed decisions about where to attend school.
  • GI Bill® Comparison Tool helps you compare Veterans Affairs-approved institutions and review other information to choose the education program that works best for you.
  • College Navigator provides a search feature, builds a list of schools for comparison and pinpoints school locations to help you make the best decision about your postsecondary education.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

Raytheon establishes $20,000 SPY-6 scholarship for US Navy student veterans

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Raytheon Company, in partnership with Student Veterans of America, is offering two U.S. Navy student veterans $10,000 each in scholarships under a new program announced during the Surface Navy Association’s 32nd National Symposium.

Applications for the scholarship grants are accepted on the SVA website from January 15, 2020April 1, 2020.

The Raytheon SPY-6 Scholarship, named for the U.S. Navy’s SPY-6 Family of Radars, provides returning sailors an opportunity to achieve educational goals and position themselves for success in civilian professions. The scholarships will be awarded to sailors who pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree at an accredited university and demonstrate leadership in their local community.

“Investment in our student veterans – the future leaders of our industry – provides opportunity to gain unique experience, product knowledge and customer-centric insights that protect our service men and women around the world,” said Paul Ferraro, vice president of Raytheon’s Seapower Capability Systems business. “Our SPY-6 scholarship rewards Navy student veterans who exhibit superior academic achievement and are leaders on campus and in their communities.”

The Raytheon SPY-6 Scholarship is the latest initiative as part of Raytheon and SVA’s $5 million multi-year partnership to provide military veterans the resources, support and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education.

About Raytheon
Raytheon Company, with 2018 sales of $27 billion and 67,000 employees, is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, civil government and cybersecurity solutions. With a history of innovation spanning 97 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration, C5I® products and services, sensing, and mission support for customers in more than 80 countries. Raytheon is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. Follow us on Twitter.

About Student Veterans of America 
With a focused mission on empowering student veterans, SVA is committed to providing an educational experience that goes beyond the classroom. Through a dedicated network of more than 1,500 on-campus chapters in all 50 states and 4 countries representing more than 750,000 student veterans, SVA aims to inspire yesterday’s warriors by connecting student veterans with a community of like-minded chapter leaders. Every day these passionate leaders work to provide the necessary resources, network support, and advocacy to ensure student veterans can effectively connect, expand their skills, and ultimately achieve their greatest potential. For more information, visit us at www.studentveterans.org.

7 stress resources Veterans can use right now

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As a Veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. The VA is here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be.

VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that Veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.

Seven mental health resources Veterans can use right now

  1. Just show up to any VA Medical Center. Did you know that VA offers same day services in Primary Care and Mental Health at 172 VA Medical Centers across the country? VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Same-Day 24/7 access to emergency mental health care the top clinical priority for VA staff. “It’s important that all Veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.” Now, all 172 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) provide Same-Day Mental Health Care services. If a Veteran is in crisis or has need for immediate mental health care, he or she will receive immediate attention from a health care professional. To find VA locations near you, explore the facility locator tool.
  2. Make the Connection is an online resource designed to connect Veterans, their family members, friends and other supporters with information and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On the website, visitors can watch hundreds of Veterans share their stories of strength and recovery, read about a variety of life events and mental health topics, and locate nearby resources.
  3. The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  4. Vet Centers provide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling, outreach and referral to eligible Veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components and their families. It offers individual, group, marriage and family counseling. And you can get a referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services at no cost. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.
  5. Coaching Into Care provides guidance to Veterans’ family members and friends on encouraging a Veteran they care about to reach out for mental health support. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.
  6. The Veteran Training online self-help portal provides tools for overcoming everyday challenges. The portal has tools to help Veterans work on problem-solving skills, manage anger, develop parenting skills, and more. All tools are free. Its use is entirely anonymous, and they are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with Veterans and their families.
  7. AboutFace features stories of Veterans who have experienced PTSD, their family members, and VA clinicians. There, you can learn about PTSD, explore treatment options, and get advice from others who have been there.

Learn more

For more information about VA’s mental health resources and behavioral health services, please visit VA’s Mental Health Services website at MentalHealth.va.gov, or the Vet Center website (for combat Veterans) at www.vetcenter.va.gov. For a more detailed view of VA mental health service offerings, explore the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Guidebook.

Stay in the know: The VA’s 2020 Yellow Ribbon Schools

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The Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program (Yellow Ribbon Program) is a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.

This program allows institutions of higher learning (degree granting institutions) in the United States to voluntarily enter into an agreement with VA to fund tuition expenses that exceed either the annual maximum cap for private institutions or the resident tuition and fees for a public institution.

The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses, and VA will match the same amount as the institution.

To view a list of the Department of Veterans Affairs schools on College Recon, Click here.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon FAQs

What is the Yellow Ribbon Program? How will it benefit me?

The Yellow Ribbon Program is a provision of the law that created the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Yellow Ribbon Program is available for Institutions of Higher Learning (degree granting institutions) in the United States or at a branch of such institution located outside the United States. The program allows approved institutions of higher learning and the VA to partially or fully fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed the established thresholds under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

If I am eligible for the Post‐9/11 GI Bill, am I automatically eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

No. Only Veterans (or dependents under Transfer of Entitlement) at the 100 percent benefit level qualify. Active duty members and spouses thereof are not eligible for this program. In addition, the institution must be approved to participate in the program, and you must apply to the school.

How do I know whether the school I want to attend participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program?

More information about the program and the lists of participating Yellow Ribbon schools are posted on the GI Bill website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/yellow_ribbon.asp

If the school I plan to attend participates in the program, can I count on being in the program?

No. The school’s agreement with the VA may limit the number of participants in the program and is determined on a first-come, first-served basis. You must apply to the school. The school will notify each student accepted into the Yellow Ribbon Program.

If the school I plan to attend participates in the program, do all participants receive the same amount of Yellow Ribbon Program benefits?

Not necessarily. Schools have the flexibility to designate the number of students and contributions based on student status (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral) and college or professional school. For example, the school could specify $1,000 for undergraduates, $1,500 for graduate students and $2,000 for doctoral students. The school also could specify $1,800 for students in the school of engineering and $2,500 for students in the school of nursing.

If I participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program this year, will I automatically be in the program next year?

Not necessarily. Yellow Ribbon Program agreements must be in effect for each year. A school with an approved agreement with VA must continue to offer it to you in subsequent years as long as the following conditions apply:

  • The school continues to participate in the program
  • You maintain satisfactory progress towards completion of your program
  • You remain continuously enrolled (per school’s policy)
  • You have remaining entitlement under the Post‐9/11 GI Bill

If you transfer to another school, the new school would have to participate in the program and accept your application; the first school’s decision has no bearing on the second school.

If I participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program this year, will I automatically be guaranteed the same matching contributions from the school and VA for subsequent years (provided the above conditions still apply)?

No. The school may choose to contribute a different amount for subsequent years.

Will all of my tuition and fees be paid for if my school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program?

Not necessarily. The school’s agreement with the VA specifies an amount the school will contribute (and VA will match) to make up all or part of the difference between what the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay and the unmet tuition and fees charges. In addition, the school’s agreement with the VA may specify only certain colleges and/or professional schools, and/or undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral level programs. The list of schools on the website will include specific information on each school’s agreement with VA.

What happens when a portion of my tuition and fees is already met through state or institutional waivers?

The amount of tuition and fees charged, minus any aid specifically designated for the sole purpose of defraying tuition and fees, will be used to determine the amount payable under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The unmet charges may be covered in part or entirely through equal Yellow Ribbon Program contributions from the school and VA.

What fees will be covered by Yellow Ribbon Program funds?

All mandatory fees for a student’s program of education may be included. Any fees that are not mandatory, such as room and board, study abroad (unless the study abroad course is a requirement for the degree program), and penalty fees (such as late registration, return check fees, and parking fines) cannot be included. These fees are not payable under the Yellow Ribbon Program or under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Do I have to attend full time to be in the Yellow Ribbon Program?

No. You do not have to attend full time.

How will I know for sure that I am eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program? What is the process to apply?

If you submit an application for the Post-9/11 GI Bill to VA and are eligible at the 100 percent benefit level, VA will issue you a Certificate of Eligibility advising you are potentially eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program. You should provide your Certificate of Eligibility to the school, which in turn will determine if there are slots available for the Yellow Ribbon Program (based on its agreement with the VA).

If your school has already sent us an enrollment certification, and it is processed at the same time as your application, your award letter will also display your benefit level. The school is responsible for notifying you whether or not you are accepted and approved for the Yellow Ribbon Program. The school then submits an enrollment form to VA, certifying information that is used to make payment to the school for tuition and fees and for Yellow Ribbon Program payments.

How would I know if the school I am attending would discontinue its participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program for subsequent years?

The school must inform its students of discontinued participation.

Can I receive Yellow Ribbon Program funds for the summer term?

Yes, if the school still has Yellow Ribbon Program funds available for the per‐student maximum contribution for summer term.

If I reduce my course load, how will my payments change?

The contributions from the school and VA would be reduced. Refunds are based on the school’s refund policy, and you would be liable to VA for any resulting overpayments.

If I leave my school but return after a semester, am I still approved for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

The school must continue to offer the Yellow Ribbon Program to you provided that the school continues to participate in the program, you maintain satisfactory progress, and you remain continuously enrolled. The definition of continuous enrollment is dictated by the school’s policy and determines your continued eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Source: va.gov

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