Veterans need lots of choices, including postsecondary career schools

Right now, nothing is more important than ensuring that we have front-line troops in the war against COVID-19. We need highly trained medical personnel dedicated to this fight, and we need them today.

Where do they come from? They are men and women who know what it means to serve. Dedicated to the mission. And yes, sometimes they put their lives on the line.

Good news: we have tens of thousands of military service veterans who want to serve. They need training and medical education. Veterans like me who served in the Navy in areas of Illinois and Pensacola, FL.

And after fighting and serving our country abroad, I returned home to join the legion of medical professionals in this country. I used my GI Bill to go to school and acquire skills that have been extremely valuable assets for me in the Dental Assistant profession. Paying attention to details of x rays, patient requests or concerns, and proper treatment execution would not be possible for me without the various levels of training I’ve received from institutions like The College of Health Care Professionals. It’s given me new opportunities for my life and better fuel to drive my family towards a better quality of life.

Now more than ever, people like me are needed on the frontlines of our medical war on the coronavirus. Sadly, the GI Bill that I used to get my degree is under attack. Some Senators want to limit our ability to choose how we use our GI Bill – a benefit that we earned – and restrict our ability to get critical training. How ironic: You trusted me as an Airman that conducts routine maintenance on E-2 Hawkeyes and C-2 Greyhounds but you don’t trust me to make good choices in my education?

These senators have no problem trusting the intelligence of Service Members to operate submarines, helicopters, fighter jets, naval vessels. They don’t question our ability to analyze complex data and know when our enemies are using deceitful tactics on the battlefield. But when it comes to trusting veterans to use that same sound judgement to put their GI Bill benefits to use they suddenly act as if we are inept. Do we lack the intellectual capacity to decide which college is the best fit for me and my career goals? This attack on Service Members should be insulting to all who serve or have served in the military.

Sadly, the GI Bill benefits I used to become a Registered Dental Assistant are being used as a negotiation piece as part of an ideological political crusade by a group of U.S. Senators. This attack on Service Members should be insulting to all who serve or have served in the military. Telling us that we did not earn the right to use the GI Bill benefit as we see fit to further our education and career pathways should make these senators feel ashamed.

Furthermore, The GI Bill benefit is something that each veteran earns due to our willingness to serve our country. Telling veterans that this contractual pledge from Uncle Sam has strings attached should be considered as an affront by all my fellow Service Members. The reality is that these Senators are using veterans – and a benefit that we have earned – for their own political gain.

Veterans need lots of choices, including post-secondary career schools, like the one I went to. served my country with pride and came home and wanted to go to work in the medical field. My school got me trained and ready. Why do we want to limit that ability for my fellow veterans?

Given what our country is facing, and the issues COVID-19 has exposed in our healthcare system, these members of Congress should be trying to find ways to give veterans like me as many choices in higher education and career training as possible. Instead of using this pandemic to further an ideological crusade against colleges with a certain tax status and reducing options for veterans, these senators should be finding ways to create more pathways and opportunities for veterans and trust us now, just like they did when we served.

By Onazeen Vital, military veteran