November 1, 2011 Name of Organization: Type of Organization: Mission: Student Veterans Advocacy Group Non-Profit Corporation

The Student Veterans Advocacy Group is an organization run by student Veterans, for student Veterans and/or their dependents. We have not only a duty, but an obligation alike, to ensure all Veterans, and/or their dependents, are provided the full educational benefits intended and promised to them upon the completion of their time-in-service, under conditions other than a dishonorable discharge. The detrimental impact suffered by student Veterans across North Carolina, and approximately 40 other states, due to the change in federal law where President Obama signed the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-377) on January 4, 2011. This is after passing the Senate by Unanimous Consent on December 13, 2010, where after the House passed the bill by the Yeas and Nays with a 409-3 approval (Roll No. 642). As a direct result of this change in law thousands of student Veterans, and prospective student Veterans alike, faced the never-before issue of in-state residency for tuition purposes. In a sense, our active-service members and current student Veterans whom, byin-large, had no idea their State of residency for tuition purposes would invariably be the determining factor as to whether they could afford, much less, attain the educational benefits promised to them - for the sacrifices they made to protect our nation. One student Veteran emailed stating,
“After proudly serving my country for more time deployed than home with my family, while losing friends in Iraq, and then moving my family to North Carolina for a better tomorrow…it’s just not fair for my country to take the education benefits from me, leaving me to have to move my family back to Washington and in with our family just so I could afford to pay the $10,000 out of my pocket, for something promised to me of which I sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears for. It’s just not right. This is not the kind of principles I was taught from my time in service.”

Problem:

This travesty is most nearly described as a car-jacking to include an assault, with the government being the perpetrator and our Veterans being the victim, where two weeks after the criminal assault and robbery our Veterans just happen to run into the perpetrator and are simply asking for their car back while a police officer is standing there knowing what happened, and doing nothing about it.

The issue at hand - is the cyclical loss of moral fiber and core life-principles resulting from actions such as this, from our nations’ leaders.

Reason For Organizational Inception:
As student Veterans attending UNC-Wilmington, as supporters for both our active-service members and Veterans, and as disabled American Veterans – I was nearly brought to tears when hearing another student Veteran say,
“I’m supposed to graduate in December 2012, and may not be able to now.”

Another student Veteran emailed stating,
“Had it not been for close friends and family, in the last few months, helping me out, I would be living out of my car. I’m not quite sure how these sudden changes in the GI Bill happened, but it’s not what I was promised when I signed up. It’s almost like being tossed in the deep in of the pool with a ruck-sack full of boulders.”

Just today, I met with a student Veteran, also attending UNC-Wilmington, regarding this issue. He was literally crying, preventing him from even speaking for nearly five minutes. I was so affected by his pain tears came to my eyes. Three-quarters of the way into the semester he states,
“I may have to drop out of school by weeks-end…I received an email from the school’s finance office that said I still have a balance of about $3,500 owed to the school, which must be paid within one week in order to not be dropped by the school.”

What could I say to him? There are several thousand other student Veterans across North Carolina, alone, facing nearly the same situation. In times like this we can fall back on a better understanding of what our Forefathers' had in mind, with our Declaration of Independence. When any governmental body or institution maintains a position whereby not being objective and accountable to the very constituents it purports to represent, causing them irrevocable harm and suffering, with no accountability and merely held harmless to such detriment...it is our duty, as student Veterans and leaders, to speak out - demanding swift action to resolve said detriment. If no resolve is foreseeable within a reasonable time frame, we create a new body to adequately represent those whom are suffering, while ensuring such body maintains objectivity in addition to proper accountability to the very constituents it represents.

Cost Reasoning For The Change In Law:

 

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According to Public Law 111-377, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2010, “The Congressional Budget Office estimates a potential cost savings of $1
million over the 2011-2015 period, and a savings of $734 million over the 20112020 period.”

Bottom line…this short-sited decision was all about a quick buck.

Impact Due To The Change In Law:
From the inception of the GI Bill in the 1940s, nearly 8 million service members were transformed from the educational benefits, never known before. There was nearly a 7-dollar yield per 1-dollar investment into our Veterans, due to the GI Bill. Not only did the GI Bill allow the military to become competitive with respect to many other jobs available nationwide, but it created an advantage for service members to attain a college degree. This invariably lead to them getting better grades, better jobs, owning more businesses, and thusly paying more taxes, leading into one of the greatest investments, providing economic success for both a short and long-term basis.

According to a working group comprised of UNC system officials named UNC SERVES, in their April 2011 Report to the President:   “  Veterans earn better grades and have a 75 percent graduation rate. With the
exception of white males, veterans in all other race and gender groups earn more money than their non-veteran counterparts. Veterans start more small businesses. In general, Veterans outperform non-Veterans.” “To realize this potential our state must actively support military-affiliated students in its systems of public higher education. We want these students to choose a UNC education and we want them to live and work in North Carolina. The UNC SERVES Working Group believes that educating service members yields a high return on investment for North Carolina and the nation. And, in doing so the University makes a significant down payment on the promise of UNC Tomorrow to be more demand-driven, relevant and responsive to the needs of North Carolina.”

At UNC-Wilmington, student Veterans represent over 10% of the 2011-12 freshman class, while the school as a whole also hosts the second largest student Veteran population of any North Carolina University or Community College. North Carolina, alone, has over 16 public UNC School System Universities and over 100 other Community Colleges, private Colleges, and Universities.

Nearly 8.5% of North Carolina’s population is Veterans, having one of the two
largest Veteran and active-duty service member populations in the country. Additionally, one must consider the estimated economic impact on the state, expected to be nearly $26.5 Billion in 2013. Setting aside the simple fact that the educational benefits were promised, as in signing a promissory note, which is past due, Veterans just want to collect what was promised to them. It stands to

 

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reason that when changing such key variables, which have such a strong bearing on the economical prosperity of Our State and/or Nation’s economy - when taking away Veterans educational benefits – the forecasted models previously used are no longer valid. As a result, our nation has sacrificed the Billions of dollars, previously forecasted, for a ten-year savings plan of about $734 Million. The outcome of which - is many of our Veterans will no longer achieve their educational goals, leaving more unemployed, whereby owning fewer businesses, directly resulting in an inverse affect, contradicting the economic forecasts previously researched and offered, yielding a negative return. A child could deduce from this simply: There is no savings of $734 Million, due to the detrimental affects, both societal and economical alike, Our State and Nation will suffer. The fact of the matter is….you can’t fix a bad economy by making poor financial decisions, further weakening Our Nation.

What We Are Asking For:
All Veterans and Armed Forces Service Members, whether active-duty or drilling status, to be considered in-state residents for tuition purposes.

Potential Solutions (using information for North Carolina):
The Yellow-Ribbon program is offered nationwide. Any school can participate in the program funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. For any school to participate, they must simply budget funds to do so on an individual student Veteran basis. Whatever funds the school elects to contribute toward each student, at their discretion, the VA will match the same amount. Therefore, 50% of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates for student Veterans affected by the change in law could be covered by the VA through the Yellow-Ribbon Program alone. For example, there are more than 110 colleges and universities in North Carolina, the Yellow-Ribbon program is only offered by around 40 of them. Another opportunity for cost savings, using only North Carolina statistical data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs for 2009, is to make software and hardware upgrades to the current VA system that mails each Veteran medical appointment reminders, which is often sent in duplicate to one already mailed or sometimes a blank second page for the same appointment is mailed. For many Veterans, this sometimes happens as multiple occurrences for each appointment. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010, Veterans in North Carolina are expected to have 60 Million outpatient medical appointments. At a cost of nearly $0.50 per notice of appointment mailed to each Veteran, assuming only one duplicate each appointment, the cost which North Carolina could save the VA alone could be nearly $30 Million.

 

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Between the two cost saving options offered, North Carolina may actually be money in the bank, as opposed to the “cost” previously viewed by the state to be a “cost” to the state. The result is a better future economical outlook and investment in our State and Nation, for now and tomorrow. Thanks so much for your time and consideration. Authored and advocated by: Jason R. Thigpen Founder/President Student Veterans Advocacy Group Website: www.mysvag.org Email: jasonthigpen@studentveteransadvocacygroup.org

 

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