According to Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, the issues veterans confront when registering at and attending PCC are numerous. They range from the physical and financial, to the emotional and societal. Veteran and PCC student Jorge Zamora confronts several issues on a daily basis, he said. He has a serious back injury and PTSD.

PCC’s classroom chairs are terrible for him due to his size and chronic back pain, he said.

Zamora’s only income is the G.I. Bill and Disability, he said. Trying to pay his bills is a constant issue.

Zamora said he knows several veterans that sleep in their cars.

“I was lucky. I had to live in my car for only two weeks,” he said, until a member of the Veterans Club offered a place for him to stay.

“It’s very important the PCC community know that we’re not looking for a handout. We’re in class and we strive to be self-sufficient. We want to be productive members of society just like any other student,” said Zamora.

He was thankful for the support he’s received from key members of the Veterans Services and Club.

“Financial issues are a tremendous burden,” said Patty D’Orange-Martin, associate professor and counselor for Counseling and Career Services.

“There has to be a way to resolve the wait on financial assistance,” she said. “Benefits don’t kick in for a month.”

The delay D’Orange-Martin refers to is due to a change in the new Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, according to Denise Vidrio, intermediate account clerk for PCC’s Fiscal Services department.

Previously, veterans would receive their course fees and housing stipend directly from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, she said. “Now veterans have to pay [their registration fees] upfront.”

As a result, many vets don’t bother to register, said Raymond Hsu, a veteran and volunteer in PCC’s Learning Disabilities department.

Some veterans’ issues are initially hard to discern, said D’Orange-Martin. She calls them invisible wounds.

Invisible wounds often don’t surface until she’s talked to a veteran. “[Then] the facade starts to come down,” she said.

Invisible wounds can be PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injuries, learning disabilities and transition issues, according to D’Orange-Martin

Another issue for some, said veterans, is waiting in line or being surrounded by people.

The problem with waiting in line is veterans “are in a high-pitched state of readiness,” said Harold Martin, assistant professor for Counseling and Career services. “Over-alertness can cause an overload [or] anxiety.”

Additionally, some veterans don’t have the power to ask for help, said student and veteran Stephen Soto.

In the military, soldiers are trained to be self-reliant, said Martin, It inhibits the vets from asking for help.

Soto suggested that a cheat sheet to help guide veterans through the registration and services steps.

Since veterans come from highly structured environments, George Dixon, a veteran services officer from the local VA Outpatient Clinic, recommended a checklist be created for each department.

That said, Dixon stressed the importance that people don’t stigmatize the veteran community as needy or troubled people. Most of the veterans he meets are ready and able.

“Treat them with respect, not a special group of people,” he said.

Dixon also announced that he will soon have a number of Section 8 vouchers to subsidize housing costs.

Many veterans think if they’re collecting veteran services benefits, they’re not eligible for [financial] aid, said Kim Miles, Assistant Dean of Scholarships and Financial Aid. That’s not true.

She said there are special scholarships available for veterans and encouraged them to apply.

“We need to gather the players more frequently, so all departments know “who’s who, ” said Kent Yamauchi, Assistant Dean of Special Services. “[Let’s] meet regularly and continue to invite veterans to attend.”

Progress is dependent on all departments’ participation, he said.

Yamauchi said Disabled Students Programs and Services is already creating a cheat sheet and are planning a follow-up meeting for mid-April.

A receptive audience of all services and many administration departments packed Room C217 to hear veterans speak on Thursday afternoon.

The meeting’s purpose was to assist the DSP&S to be better prepared to respond to the needs of veteran student through improved networking between student services departments, said Yamauchi.

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