Navy veteran Steven Johnson is now helping his fellow veterans from all branches of military service pursue their educational goals at Eastern Kentucky University.
Johnson serves as the full-time, on-site VetSuccess on Campus Coordinator (VSOC) at the Richmond campus, home to more than 1,500 military-affiliated students and their dependents and winner of numerous national honors in recent years for its efforts to help veterans transition to college life.
Filling one of just 94 VSOC positions on college campuses nationwide, Johnson helps students:
· Pursue their goals through any of the VA’s educational programs, including the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill, as well as VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program. (VSOC counselors can also assist dependents of veterans who are receiving VA education benefits, including eligible spouses attending school through the Post 9/11 GI Bill and eligible children.)
· Choose vocational goals through personalized counseling and support, including vocational testing and interest inventories.
· Apply for VA benefits, if eligible, including health care and mental health services.
· Schedule VA healthcare appointments.
· Make life adjustments that will be conducive to their academic success.
“I emphasize to prospective students the unique market brand of EKU, and the support students receive here on campus to reach their educational goals,” Johnson said. “People and organizations in the business community respect the education received by our students at EKU.”
In fact, Johnson noted that he has seen approximately 80 percent of veterans gain employment within 90 days of graduation.
“The greatest thing about the VSOC position is witnessing the growth of the veterans, dependents and service members,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing like seeing students finish school and pursue their dreams. This is how many of our nation’s communities will continue progressing – through education. Meeting educational goals and finding employment makes the veterans and service members feel a sense of finding something meaningful again after their service time.”
Four times in the last five years, Eastern has also ranked first or second nationally among four-year schools in the Military Times “Best for Vets” rankings. Also last year, U.S. Veterans magazine ranked EKU among 145 Top Veteran-Friendly Schools. The University has also earned Military Friendly School distinction from Victory Media each of the past six years.
Johnson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Phoenix and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Kentucky, joined the Veterans Administration as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in 2012 and served as a case manager overseeing veterans in the Chapter 31 program. During his three years in case management, Johnson assisted the disabled veteran populations at a number of area universities, including EKU.
Also, VA’s GI Bill website (www.benefits.va.gov/gibill) offers tools to help veterans transition from military service to student success. For career assistance, including connecting to employers looking to hire service members, veteran and dependents, the new Veterans Employment Center on eBenefits (www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/jobs) is a one-stop shop offering online tools and resources.
Johnson is located in EKU’s Office of Veterans and Military Affairs, at 317 Lancaster Ave., a converted home adjacent to Irvine McDowell Park. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-622-1297.