DECATUR - While many communities honor military veterans on November 11, many more colleges and universities work year-round to help veterans navigate the education and career-training benefits they have earned.
At Richland Community College in Decatur, Veterans Affairs Coordinator Michael Diggs works with students to understand the valuable but sometimes confusing education benefits available to post-9/11 veterans.
“(The Department of Veterans Affairs) has a lot of benefits available. Mostly right now it’s the Chapter 33, which is the post-9/11 VA benefits,” Diggs said. “They’re basically eligible for all school, books and also they get a housing allowance, so it’s a pretty good benefit.”
In recent years, Diggs said, the VA and other agencies have done a better job educating veterans on the variety of benefits they have earned.
“My job is to make that connection to help them once they get out of the service,” Diggs said. “They come and they still have questions about what they need to do and how they need to do it, and I can help them figure that out and make sure that they get the benefits they deserve to receive.”
Using those education benefits can help veterans transition to civilian jobs, and in recent years the unemployment rate for all veterans has dropped, falling even below the unemployment rate for the general population. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for the general civilian population in October was 5.0 percent, while the unemployment rate for all veterans was 3.9 percent.
“I think the military has done a really good job in making sure that soldiers and people that are in the service understand that those jobs they have in the service can really tie into jobs that are in the civilian world,’ Diggs said. “ Of course, it helps to get the civilians to learn that those jobs in the military are very similar.”