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New office provides face-to-face assistance for student veterans at Stanford

The staff at the new Student Veteran Affairs Office is trained to help veterans navigate the complicated process of receiving and managing educational benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs while attending Stanford.

L.A. Cicero Student Services staff

Jessica Hopkins, Lori Gager and Jeanette Hoggatt, of the Student Services Center are part of a team that will assist veterans with their educational benefits while attending Stanford.

To visit the new Student Veteran Affairs Office, walk into the Student Services Center on the second floor of Tresidder Memorial Union, turn right and proceed to the corner office, whose doorknob is decorated with a red, white and blue ribbon.

The office is open from 10 a.m. to noon every Tuesday.

Its staff offers face-to-face assistance to Stanford students who are using educational benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The office's mission is to help students navigate the complicated process of receiving and managing their VA educational benefits while attending Stanford, said Lori Gager, associate director of the Student Services Center.

"When Stanford surveyed student veterans last year asking them what we could do to improve the process, they said they wanted to be able to sit down and discuss their benefits face-to-face with a staff person," she said.

The office, which opened in April, represents a collaboration between the Student Services Center; the Registrar's Office, which serves as the liaison between Stanford, its students and the various federal, state and local agencies concerned with veterans' benefits; and the university's Office of Financial Aid.

"We have the Registrar's Office and the Financial Aid Office on speed dial," Gager said.

Stanford established the new office to better serve the growing population of student veterans and to meet federal "principles of excellence" for educational institutions serving veterans and their families – as well as students on active duty – outlined in a 2012 executive order signed by President Barack Obama.

Jeanette Hoggatt,  a student services specialist, said the staff recently completed specialized VA training to better understand the enrollment certification process students are required to complete in order to receive benefits.

"We also went on a field trip to the VA office in Oakland, where we met four very nice staff members," she said. "We learned a lot during the visit and opened the line for more communication."

According to the Registrar's Office, the most commonly used VA educational benefits program at Stanford is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides funding for tuition, required fees, books and housing.

Currently, 97 students at Stanford are receiving VA educational benefits, including 8 active-duty students, 58 veterans and 31 dependents, said Celeste Fowles Nguyen, associate university registrar. The population includes undergraduates and graduate students, including students enrolled in the business, law and medical schools.