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The Daily Wildcat

 

Ron Barber addresses veteran constituents in campus town hall meeting

Jordin+OConnor+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0ACongressman+Ron+Barber+hosts+an+event+at+Veterans+Town+Hall+on+Sept.+4%2C+2012.
Jordin O’Connor
Jordin O’Connor / Arizona Daily Wildcat Congressman Ron Barber hosts an event at Veterans Town Hall on Sept. 4, 2012.

Rep. Ron Barber hosted a town hall meeting on Tuesday evening in the Space Sciences building in an effort to address the concerns of local and student veterans.

The purpose of the meeting, Barber said, was to provide outreach to constituents dealing with issues regarding health care, education and employment after serving.

“I want veterans to know that our office really is on their side and that we’re here to support them in dealing with any federal agency that is making it difficult for them to get services or benefits,” Barber said.

Joining Barber were coordinators from various local veteran support organizations as well as Cody Nicholls, an assistant dean of students and director of the UA’s Veterans Education and Transition Services Initiative.

While numbers for this year’s veteran enrollment are not yet available, Nicholls said during the meeting’s panel discussion that nearly 1,000 student veterans were enrolled at the UA last fall.

Nicholls added that the UA’s Veterans Services Office is available to assist incoming veterans with almost everything while attending the university, adding that some of the most significant issues that UA veterans deal with are directly related to class preparation. Once here, Nicholls said, those students immediately have to organize their educational benefits, which can sometimes run out before they are due to graduate.

“That creates a serious financial situation,” Nicholls added. “A lot of veterans are non-traditional students who are married, some have kids, some are working part-time jobs, and so now they’re finding that in addition to everything else they’re balancing, those educational benefits are running out.”

Most recently, the university has made improvements to the way it tracks incoming students, allowing the office to determine which students are veterans before they arrive and start attending classes.

While Nicholls spoke highly of the university’s veterans services in general, he said that improvements are still being made and that Barber’s willingness to host a town hall meeting on campus helps with efforts to expand outreach and improve the services even more.

“We wouldn’t have that opportunity to hear those stories if Congressman Barber didn’t have this town hall meeting,” Nicholls said.

Ricardo Pereyda, a public management and policy senior, is the president of the UA’s chapter of Student Veterans of America. Pereyda, who attended the meeting, served in the Army’s Military Police Corps and was in Iraq for several months in 2004 and 2005. As president of the club at the university level, Pereyda said it was his responsibility to attend the meeting to see how he could improve outreach to student veterans, and help them to feel like any other student.

“I’d like to reduce some of the stigma … that veterans face as far as being on campus, being non-traditional students,” Pereyda said. “I think that it’s important to bridge that gap and to extend a hand to these other clubs and organizations so that we can start working together and address some issues that not only veterans face, but that other students and organizations face on campus as well.”

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