After the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: Veterans' Adjustment and the Use of Benefits in Post-Secondary Education
Bell, Geri Lynn
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Objectives: This dissertation was designed to explore student veterans’ attitudes and perceptions of their recent academic experiences; to gain insight about the effects of veterans’ disability status as well as social conditions that may become barriers to degree completion; and to propose an educational curriculum based on insights gained from a review of current literature and recent research findings about student veterans. Design: This dissertation is presented as three distinct, yet related articles about veterans and higher education. In the course of two years, surveys of veterans attending two universities and one community college were conducted. The first survey was administered in 2011 to learn about experiences of veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) vocational rehabilitation benefits. The second survey was conducted in 2012-13 to investigate veterans’ self-reported physical, psychological, and social well being, and to gather more in-depth input from student veterans about their experiences using VA educational benefits. Results: Results from the first survey provided descriptive data including percentages of student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill (approximately 91%) versus those using Vocational Rehabilitation services (approximately 7%). Responses to an open question provided narrative data that indicated areas of student veterans’ satisfaction and frustration using VA educational benefits in three major categories: 1) Programmatic issues; 2) Process issues; 3) Support issues. Results from a second survey included demographic information as well as scores from items drawn from PROMIS© and Neuro-QOL short forms. Compared to US population norms on self-report measures (i.e., PROMIS©), veterans’ scores for cognition-general function and cognition-executive function were significantly lower, and scores for anxiety, depression, fatigue, and sleep disturbance were different from the US norms. Veterans with disabilities had significantly lower general cognition and executive function scores than veterans who reported no disability. Curriculum Development: Because of the growing population of US veterans and, in consideration of their complex rehabilitation and readjustment needs, a college course was designed to inform prospective rehabilitation counselors about working with this unique population. The curriculum and syllabus are included in the final chapter. The last chapter of this dissertation was informed by both of the earlier studies.