December 3, 2023
Two years after the suspension of its authorization to enroll students using GI Bills, Howard has established a dedicated veterans office.
In 2021 Howard University had its ability to allow student veterans who enrolled at the prestigious HBCU to use their GI Bill to pay for tuition briefly suspended. According to a Military.com investigation, this happened because the university’s administration made repeated clerical errors when handling veteran education benefits. The move to strip a university of its ability to process GI bills is rare, but the District of Columbia’s State Approving Agency made the move because the Howard administration’s lack of prudence was negatively impacting student veterans. Howard University was given 60 days to address the issue to avoid the suspension from becoming permanent.
According to their reporting, the mishandling of GI Bills was traced to Howard’s Veteran Coordinator Christopher Rhone, who later resigned from his post after Military.com’s initial investigation. According to Leana Mason, a student who had been attending Howard using her GI Bill, the university avoided giving students who had questions a straight answer about their benefits.
Military.com spoke to Aniela Szymanski, a veterans issues attorney with the advocacy organization Representing Heroes, who told them Howard’s lack of transparency was concerning.
“I think that the big shocking part here is not keeping students informed,” Szymanski said. “Students have to be proactive, and if something looks off, if there are delays, if they can’t get straight answers, they need to call the GI Bill hotline. The school is biased; perhaps they won’t always be the most forthcoming to protect their reputation. The next best option is to work with the school to delay starting.”
Another expert, Carrie Wofford, the president of Veterans Education Success, a group responsible for often lobbying Congress on issues related to the GI Bill, told Military.com that the move against Howard also concerned her, because there were other known fraudulent actors.
“It would be a disgrace if VA were to cut off Howard for paperwork compliance but not do anything about the known fraudsters,” Wofford explained. “VA and the D.C. SAA should help Howard figure out the paperwork issues and resolve it. Howard is arguably the most important historically Black college in the country and provides a great education. VA should be helping great schools and focusing any punishment on fraudsters.”
Now two years later, according to Military.com, Howard University has opened a new office to facilitate better communication between the university and the Department of Veterans Affairs. On Nov. 9, following the receipt of $580,000 in funding from the Department of Education in October, Howard University established the Office of Military & Veterans Services, which according to the university will function as a “liaison between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) and the University.”
The university also promised to “assist with the processing of federal Veteran Affairs (VA) education benefits, certify enrollments to the VA, advise on procedural requirements, and provide a cultural resource for military-connected students on campus.”
Alongside the new office, Howard University also established a new Student Veterans of America chapter. The opening and creation of both divisions coincided with Veterans Day, which Paris Adon, the director of Howard University’s Student Services, alluded to in a statement.
“Our work is so important because we’re responsible for supporting those students who, in addition to matriculating here, may also be find themselves trying to navigate life as an active duty serviceperson or having to cope with having a loved one who is in military service,” Adon continued, “There’s really no better time than Veterans Day to show our appreciation for these students and families and officially launch our SVA chapter to really show just how committed we are to ensuring veteran and military-connected students know we’re here for them.”
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