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Home / Articles / News / News /  CU vets see growing support on campus
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Thursday, November 5,2009

CU vets see growing support on campus

By Marissa Hermanson and Jeff Dodge

Support network

There also seems to be an improving network of support at CU and in Boulder for veterans seeking help with psychological issues. Akers coordinates with the Wardenburg Health Center, CU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Boulder Vet Center, referring veterans to experts when they need support beyond what he can offer.

Joe Courtney, manager of psychological health and psychiatry at Wardenburg, told Boulder Weekly that his department has begun seeing greater numbers of veterans, and that number is only expected to increase. He says many have some degree of trauma if they were in combat situations.

Courtney says common problems among veterans include depression, anxiety, relationship issues and a tendency to constantly look for danger in their daily lives. He says Wardenburg offers an after-hours emergency phone line, staffed by therapists, that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The center also has some therapists who are trained in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a technique used to help people resolve trauma.

Wardenburg, as opposed to Counseling and Psychological Services, is authorized to prescribe medications and can grant a medical withdrawal to veterans who need a “time-out” to complete a treatment plan and return to the place in their academic career where they left off. Treatment for veterans at Wardenburg is free if they have the Student Gold Health Insurance Plan; those with Wardenburg Campus Care insurance have to pay for treatment.

On the other hand, CAPS offers students, faculty and staff six free sessions, but that office cannot prescribe medications.

Felicia Greher, a staff psychologist at CAPS, serves as the veterans’ liaison to Akers’ office and the Boulder Vet Center. She says her office is currently seeing several veterans, and has just started to track that number.

According to Greher, veterans often experience problems with sleep, concentration, motivation, impatience and feeling out of place. Exacerbating these issues is that they are often older students who have jobs, families and financial stress. At the same time, she says, they tend to be very self-reliant, motivated, goal-oriented and driven, and usually do well in class so that they can get their degree.

Greher says it is important for campus community members to be “showing compassion and openness to student veterans, and saying thanks for serving our country.”

Counting veterans

One of Akers’ primary tasks when appointed as director of the veterans’ affairs office was to gain a more accurate idea of how many veterans there were on campus. Initial estimates two years ago ranged from 350 to 1,000. Today, after adding a question about veteran status to student applications a couple of years ago, Akers has a more reliable estimate of 400 veterans on campus, although it will be a few more years before the campus has an accurate figure.

Before the Office of Veterans Affairs’ opened, CU relied on its Veterans’ Services Office, which deals with veterans’ education benefits, primarily financial aid through the GI Bill. Akers’ office offers expanded resources.

“[The Office of Veterans’ Affairs] was sorely needed,” says Akers. “Not just at CU, but at all institutions out there, to help individuals make the transition from the military to the academic world [and] to set the conditions for success for them.

“Sometimes I’ll just sit out and talk to them and see how they’re doing, if they are well treated, well respected on campus, just to get to know them better,” says Akers. “And in the process, [they] know that I am here to help them solve any problems.”

He maintains an e-mail list of veterans on campus, which he uses to notify them of resources, news and special events. Harris, whose monthly housing stipend was delayed due to a backlog at the federal level, learned through an Akers e-mail that the feds were releasing emergency payments of $3,000 to those like him who had been waiting for months.

Moleski says he approached Akers before he applied to CU, to get help with the paperwork and the application process. Newcomb has received a couple of veteran scholarships, another area where Akers has shepherded significant growth. Two years ago, there was no campus money for such scholarships and grants; last year it rose to $8,000. This year, that total has reached $73,000, he says.

Akers says financial aid was one of three needs he identified among veterans on campus after the office was formed. The other two were more job/internship/academic counseling and more recognition.

“They wanted someone to say thank you,” Akers says. On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Colorado Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, will be the featured speaker at an 11 a.m. ceremony in the Glenn Miller Ballroom at the University Memorial Center. A reception will follow in the UMC Veterans Lounge.

And on Nov. 7, veterans will be recognized at the CU football game against Texas A&M at Folsom Field. Veterans have been offered $5 tickets to the game, they are invited to a special pre-game tailgating party, and their service will be honored at a halftime ceremony, complete with photos of CU alumni serving in the military shown on the scoreboard video screen.

Harris and Newcomb both say they will be taking their dads to that game.

They both beam with pride as they say this — Harris because his dad served in the British Army in the 1950s, Newcomb because her dad is a Buffs fan but has never been to a game.

NOV. 7
WHAT: Halftime ceremony honoring service members at CU-Texas A&M football game
WHEN: Game starts at 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: Folsom Field
WHO: Veterans and their families

NOV. 11
WHAT: CU’s annual Veteran’s Day ceremony
WHEN: 11 a.m.
WHERE: Glenn Miller Ballroom at the University Memorial Center WHO: Colorado Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, will be the featured speaker. A reception will follow in the UMC Veterans Lounge.

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