With around 200,000 service members leaving the military every year, many of them choose to use their GI Bill and pursue a college degree right away after getting out. However, because many of these veterans are also managing a variety of physical and mental challenges, adding the stress of starting school on top of the stress already there can exacerbate their health issues which in turn can affect their coursework in college. The good news is that the Department of Veteran Affairs has a variety of programs to help veterans ease into college life while at the same time addressing their health needs.

The VITAL Program

The Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) is a program that helps veterans access campus-based resources like transition counseling, mental health support, and assistance in accessing campus and other VA-related programs and resources. Some of the help available to eligible veterans is:

  • Access to on-campus clinical care and counseling by licensed mental health professionals.
  • Enrollment in available various VA Programs
  • Individualized education and social integration plans and the roadmap on how to get there.
  • Using the VITAL program as a bridge between on-campus mental health providers, local VA medical centers, the VA itself, campus faculty and staff members and targeted resources available within the local community.

To take advantage of the VITAL program, veterans must meet the VA’s health services eligibility criteria and be enrolled in the VA health care system.

VITAL Locations

It’s no secret that veterans like the flexibility of asynchronous online learning for a variety of reasons. However, for those struggling with mental or physical health challenges, online learning may not be the best education choice. Why?

Of all the schools with online learning, only one school has a VITAL program – Western Governor’s University. The rest of the VITAL programs are all located on-campus.

One would think that for such a valuable program for veterans going to school, the VITAL program would be in more schools … but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, only about half of the states have a VITAL program in any of their post-secondary schools. The states having a VITAL program in their schools range from Idaho, Illinois, and Kansas each having one program to Minnesota with 16 schools having a VITAL program.

As a veteran, if you are thinking of enrolling in a school and you think you may need to use the VITAL program, check to see if your perspective school has a program in place.

If you or you know of a veteran in crisis, call the Veteran Crisis Hotline at 988, then press 1 to chat live or text 838255.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.