VA deputy secretary hears from student veterans at UIC roundtable
Matters related to education, health and homelessness were among the issues shared by Chicago area student veterans during a March 16 roundtable with Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald Remy.
The event, hosted by UIC in Student Center East, provided Remy and other officials the opportunity to understand what’s on the students’ minds, to hear their questions and concerns, and to help with the challenges they may be facing.
“This is a veteran population that people don’t intuitively think about, but it’s a huge veteran population that’s important to America — to America’s future, to America’s past,” he said. “It was terrific to have such a large group of student vets, not just from this campus, but from campuses in the community be able to come together, share their stories with one another and share their stories with me.”
Mia Garcia-Hills, director of Student Veterans Affairs at UIC, moderated the roundtable discussion with approximately 20 students representing UIC, City Colleges of Chicago, College of DuPage, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, National-Louis University and the University of Chicago.
The Chicago area student veterans expressed similar concerns related to education and benefits as other veterans at previous roundtables held online and in person across the country, Remy said.
“What they want to know is that their benefits are there for them and that they’ll be able to not just pursue their education, but take care of their family while they’re pursuing their education,” he said. “And as importantly, when they’re done, they have a job to go to, they have a vocation that they can engage in, and can use the skills they learned while in the military count toward credit in college and propelled to what they want to do next in life.”
Dante Hall, a UIC sophomore majoring in English, was among the participants.
“I didn’t quite know that it would be such a great opportunity to meet other people with similar concerns, or who had the ability to help organize things that could have an impact. So, I think that it turned out to be more valuable than I would have anticipated,” said Hall, a veteran of the Indiana National Guard.
Remy’s general message to all student veterans is that the Department of Veterans Affairs is here to serve.
“You’ve earned the health care, you’ve earned the benefits, you’ve earned the attention of the VA and you have that attention,” he said. “What we do every single day is to make sure that we provide that health care and those benefits to every single veteran and that we take care of them the way they took care of us when they started.”