Disabled Veterans and Distance Learning Opportunities

There is no doubt that making the transition from military life to civilian life is an often stressful time, even for those without service-related disabilities.  As more and more veterans return home from Afghanistan and Iraq with a range of disabilities, the online environment may be a prime starting point for those needing to ease into civilian life.  Even for wounded veterans who wish to continue their service, having the ability to attend school anywhere, anytime may give them an advantage when or if they do choose to work in the civilian world.

Programs such as the GI Bill and the Vocational Rehabilitation/Chapter 31 VetSuccess are two federal programs designed to help.  Chapter 31 is specific to disabled veterans, but the GI Bill may be used regardless of disability status.

 

Prior to World War II, veterans could not count on receiving any federal provision of assistance as they returned home.  Serving your country did not necessarily mean that your country would return the favor in kind.  It was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, that first provided support for veteran education and job training, unemployment pay, and loan guarantees for homes, farms or businesses.   And it has been one of the single most impactful pieces of legislation this country has ever produced.

 

Of all the provisions included in the GI Bill, it could be argued that the education benefits are the most important.  Without education and training, the government recognized, finding post-service civilian employment would be a challenge for veterans.  Indeed, even in today’s sagging economy, many employers recognize the high value that veterans’ military training and experience brings to a business.  By adding a post-graduate education to their resume, in addition to their military experience, returning troops can gain an even bigger advantage in a highly competitive job market.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill promised payment for tuition and living expenses to those who served after September 11, 2001.  An important provision of the Post-9/11 bill was its expansion to include coverage for tuition and living expenses at vocational schools, on-the-job apprenticeships, flight programs, correspondence training and distance learning.

This expansion has helped to make distance learning programs, particularly accredited online degree options, an attractive option for veterans – particularly those who may be rehabilitating after an injury or with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The Americans with Disabilities Act has helped many disabled Americans achieve their educational ambitions, veterans included.  It requires educational institutions to maintain accessibility for students with disabilities – online schools included.  Because the disabled veteran faces a number of unique challenges, distance or online education may be the path that makes the most sense.

ADA requirements mean that schools must provide lessons in formats that the disabled student can use.  They must also allow a disabled student more time to complete class work if that time is necessary and they must adjust communication or testing methods when needed.  Many online schools offer programs with the kind of accessible flexibility that allows a disabled student to work at their own pace.  Online schools  also do not require that the student have the kind of physical mobility that a brick-and-mortar school often does.   In addition, some veterans who have returned from service with physical disfigurations as well as post traumatic stress disorder may feel more comfortable in an online environment.

Students with limited use of their hands may find that the use of assistive technology (AT) enables them to participate in online classes in a way they may not be able to in other settings.  Voice recognition software, online readers, adaptive keyboards and other AT allow students with a wide range of physical challenges access to course material as well as the ability to participate in online discussion groups or study sessions.

Because of the increased number of universities that use online technology to support their degree programs, disabled veterans can earn their associates, bachelors, masters or even doctoral degrees online from accredited universities.  This means that the number of job options for the disabled veteran is expanded.

A few words of caution: Make sure any online degree-granting institution is legitimate, accredited by a government sanctioned agency and approved by the VA for tuition benefits before beginning the application process.


2 Comments for Disabled Veterans and Distance Learning Opportunities


Posted on Friday 12th October, 2012, 1:45pm

are adopted children elegible for education benefits

Posted on Friday 12th October, 2012, 1:56pm

Yes, they are! I was actually adopted by my step-dad, and we received full benefits once the adoption was finalized. As long as you are the legal parent, the government views your child(ren) as your dependents and offers them all dependent benefits.

Great question. Thank you for commenting.

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