Susie Beador has been the manager of Central Washington University’s Veterans Center since it opened in November 2009, and she still gets a great feeling seeing a U.S. military veteran in a Central cap and gown on graduation day.
“For me, the most satisfying thing in my role (at the center) is to see our students (who are veterans) complete their degree, graduating and going forward in life,” Beador said last week. “It’s seeing how their Central experience helped give them a foundation that will serve them in succeeding in their careers.”
It’s estimated CWU’s Ellensburg and satellite campuses around the state are serving more than 500 military veterans who use GI Bill benefits in pursuing higher education.
A CWU Veterans Committee in past years recognized a one-stop Veterans Center was a critical need, Beador said. CWU had a Veterans Affairs program, but it needed to be restructured to more fully support veterans and their families in the transition from active duty to higher education, Beador said.
The need was heightened with the increased numbers of personnel leaving the military after service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those numbers will go nowhere but up in the coming years.
Beador, in an email, said a big goal for the center is to “raise more awareness to the benefits to which they are entitled and to stay abreast of best practices to provide the level of service our returning soldiers need and want,” Beador said.
Beador’s father served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and other relatives were in the U.S. Army in WWII.
“There’s an understanding of respect for our veterans at the center, no matter whenever or wherever they served,” Beador said.
“We don’t focus on how they served; we want to now serve them and assist them to be successful in their education.”
The center helps veterans with U.S. Veterans Administration education benefits.
“In addition, we work closely with the Veterans Administration, the campus community and the local community to provide our veterans and their families with pertinent information in a timely manner to assist them in reaching their desired educational goals,” Beador said.
A common challenge for the center is to fully inform veterans recently discharged: Sometimes the GI Bill information given them by the military has been inaccurate.
“When this happens our center has to educate the veteran on the application process and how the corresponding chapter of benefits will work for each student veteran,” Beador said. “This oftentimes delays the processing time for the student veteran’s benefits.”
Beador said a veteran who served in the Middle East recently came by the Veterans Center. He’s due to graduate this fall quarter.
“He came in and said thanks for all your help,” Beador said. “Once in a while we get a card or note or an email like that. It’s nice to know they appreciate the help. It’s a confirmation that we’re doing the right thing.”