ASU student veteran pushes for extension to G.I. Bill in D.C.

One ASU student veteran is pushing Congress to pass new legislation that would modify the G.I. Bill, providing an extra nine months of benefits for recipients pursuing STEM degrees.

Criminal justice junior Robert Janice began writing a proposal in fall 2015 to provide those benefits to veteran students. However, while researching, he stumbled upon House Resolution 748, also known as G.I. Bill STEM Extension Act of 2015.

Instead of starting from scratch, he decided to write his proposal in support of that legislation.

While he's not majoring in a STEM field himself, Janice said it's about helping other student veterans majoring in science and math fields who may struggle to pay their bills.

“It’s not necessarily applicable to me, but it’s applicable to a lot of people who are close to me,” Janice said.

2014 American Council on Education study found that 20 percent of student veterans major in STEM-related fields. These statistics inspired Janice to start his proposal.

Janice said four years might not be enough time to complete a STEM degree that requires classes that are more intensive than those required for arts or humanities-related degrees.

Because of the proposal, Janice went to Washington, D.C. in February as part of the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars Legislative Conference.

He met with Arizona’s delegation in Congress in D.C. and nabbed three cosponsors for the bill — representatives Ruben Gallego, Kyrsten Sinema and Raul Grijalva.

While Janice might not be directly affected by the passage of the bill, he does know a thing or two about what student veterans face when going back to school. He served as a sergeant in the Marine Corps from 2010 to 2014 and was deployed to the Middle East twice.

He said getting back into the flow of school was one of the hardest parts for him about going to college after serving in the military.

“College is a lot different than high school,” he said. “Having that change would normally be something to adjust to, but having a four to four-and-a-half year gap between the two, it was an added obstacle to overcome.”

Computer science senior and president of the Student Veterans Association of ASU Tempe, Patrick Gaines, agreed and added that it can be a difficult and costly transition for student veterans who are awaiting G.I. Bill benefits and university financial aid as well as those injured during their service.

“There’s the culture shock, there’s the financial hit, all of that is difficult enough by itself,” he said. “But if you have service-connected disabilities or psychological trauma, all of those other factors kind of compound and make life even harder,” he said.

That’s why, he said, the Student Veterans Association “enthusiastically participates and collaborates with” legislators on issues affecting student veterans.

He said the product of the organization is professional development for student veterans, particularly those who are pursuing majors with the intent of providing service to other student veterans in their future careers.

Gaines served in the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2010, and said he strongly supports Janice’s push for a STEM extension bill because those students often run out of benefits before graduation and have to rely on hefty student loans to get through school.

He said he and his organization will “most definitely” be advocating for the bill in the future, and that there is an ongoing effort to start up a student veterans organization within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

While it may be a struggle for some veterans to complete their studies at the set pace, history and political science senior John Luebke is on track to graduate early. However, he also supports the legislation.

He stressed that student veterans bring their own strengths to the University because of their service experience that might give them an advantage over other students without similar life experiences.

“They’re very disciplined, very sufficient and know how to follow orders,” he said.

Luebke is a Marine Corps veteran, having served several deployments to Afghanistan during his five-and-a-half year service.

Luebke has been in school for 24 months and is set to graduate soon with two degrees and is also pursuing several certificates.

As for Janice, he’ll continue pushing for the bill he says would help a large percentage of the student veteran community at ASU who are pursuing STEM majors using the connections he made in D.C.

“It’s not just a four or five day trip to D.C. and then being done, we’re trying to see these issues and make a real change,” he said. “The way things work in Congress, it’s not going to happen in a week. It’s something we’re going to push for over time.”

Related links:

New ASU office helps transition, use veterans in classroom

Band of Brothers: ASU student and veteran creates dive program to help soldiers in need

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