CLINTON — Prior to starting classes at Clinton Community College, Iowa Army National Guard member Justin Hansen didn’t know how to get the benefits afforded to veterans.
“Before I got here I didn’t know how (Veteran’s Affairs) worked or anything, but they put me on the path to get my benefits,” the 19-year-old Miles native told Congressman Bruce Braley during a visit to the college Monday.
Braley met with local student veterans and the faculty and staff who serve them at Clinton Community College on Monday to talk about the challenges of being student veterans.
Like Hansen, U.S. Air Force veteran Pete Andresen, 40, of Miles, also appreciates the help of staff aimed to assist veterans.
“They know what you’re thinking. They know what you need before you even say it,” Andresen said.
Among the helpful is Glenn Williams, an IT instructor and facilitator for the Student Veterans Association, who explained to Braley, D-Iowa, some of the hurdles student veterans face.
“Money’s tight for students and that’s one of the biggest issues in going to school,” Williams said.
Despite the helpfulness of staff and faculty at CCC, the money many veterans use to pay for school is under the control of officials far beyond the walls of the college.
Although more than 85 percent of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is funded a year in advance by Congress, insulating the veterans’ health care system from the recent government shutdown, not all veteran benefits were shielded.
VA officials warned if the shutdown lasted until November it would be unable to make payments to student veterans, disabled veterans and survivors, putting veterans such as Andresen and Hansen in a bind.
“I learned that monthly check really helps with my decisions, but when the government was shut down I didn’t know if I was going to get it so I didn’t know what to do,” Hansen said. “I was expected to make decisions, but I didn’t know if I had the money to afford those decisions.”