Derek Blumke, cofounder of Student Veterans of America, speaks at The American Legion’s Veterans On Campus education symposium during the Legion’s 51st annual Washington Conference. Photo by Marty Callaghan

Legion, SVA sponsor education symposium

The American Legion teamed up with the Student Veterans of America to co-host a Veterans On Campus education symposium March 20, during the Legion’s 51st annual Washington Conference.

Harold Barnett, chairman of the Legion’s Economic Commission, opened the event with brief remarks. Derek Blumke, SVA’s cofounder, then spoke and introduced American Legion Past National Commander Robert W. Spanogle, the symposium’s keynote speaker. Spanogle is a Vietnam veteran and served as the Legion’s national adjutant for nearly three decades.

The symposium’s theme was “Bridging the Gap,” and focused on the unique needs of returning veterans when they enroll in academic institutions, and how The American Legion and other veterans service organizations can assist in this transition.

The opening session featured a thorough explanation of GI Bill benefits by Randy Lazaro from VA’s Education Services. He discussed new benefits afforded by recent federal legislation and also spelled out some limitations or restrictions on those benefits. For example, the new $17,500 limit on GI Bill benefits per academic year applies only to private colleges and universities, and other non-public institutions. Veterans still get 100-percent tuition payments for public schools.

The symposium also featured several panels: student veterans, facilitated by Erik Brine of SVA’s Georgetown University chapter; congressional staffers from the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees, a panel on women veterans issues, moderated by Karen Courington, a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve and Georgetown University alumna; and a final panel made up of representatives from The American Legion and other veterans service organizations.