All too often, veterans arrive on college campuses unprepared for academia or, worse, having not received the total amount of education benefits they are entitled. The American Legion is willing to provide them direct assistance or work with officials at colleges to help them help veterans in their transition.
This was the crux of the message that American Legion Economic Division Director Joe Sharpe delivered in his presentation to certifying officials from colleges across the country at the 35th National Association of Veteran Program Administrators (NAVPA) Conference in Las Vegas. Sharpe explained what the Legion as an organization stands for and how it is instrumental in fighting for legislation that will help further the academic careers of student veterans.
"Our vision has always been, any veteran who attends an institution of higher learning, whether it's a traditional brick-and-mortar school or a school that gives courses in pilot training, deserves to have their education paid for. And I think that's something your institutions would agree with," Sharpe said.
Certifying officials from colleges across the country came to Harrah's convention center for presentations and breakout sessions coordinated by NAVPA – an organization of individuals and institutions that actively find ways to improve collegiate veterans affairs programs and the delivery of benefits to student veterans.
During his presentation, Sharpe outlined the history of the Legion and gave a briefing about the organization's various outreach programs that could help student veterans. Several attendees, who admittedly only thought of the organization as a social group, expressed surprise that the Legion is as active as it is in assisting veterans and on Capitol Hill.
One issue that was voiced during the question-and-answer portion of Sharpe's presentation related to student veterans who face eviction, or even homelessness, as they wait for their housing stipend to arrive. Sharpe said certifying officials can arrange aid for financially destitute veterans through the Legion by contacting their state's Homeless Veterans Task Force member. Or, they can approach a local post, which will often be willing to provide scholarships or financial aid.
"We're always here, in some form, to help," Sharpe said.
Sharpe will represent the Legion throughout the week as the NAVPA "Hitting the Jackpot with Education" conference continues. He'll attend various brainstorming sessions and offer his thoughts and counsel to certifying officials and NAVPA board members.