Opinion Piece: Living as a Disabled Student Veteran

Bent down the wrong way and blew out your back, and now you’re wondering how to make it to your next lecture? I feel your pain. Your knee gave out again while you were walking in between classes? I’ve been there. You can’t hear your professor in class because of the deafening ring in your ears due to your tinnitus. I understand the frustration. Pursuing higher education as a disabled student veteran is no simple task, and at times it can seem almost impossible — it’s not.

As a vet, you carry pride in the fact that you served your country; however, that pride may have come at a cost. Many veterans — if not all — suffer from disabilities they acquired while serving. Those disabilities can significantly hinder your ability to perform in school and, ultimately, influence the grades you earn.

So, how can a disabled student veteran cope with their disabilities? Well, I apologize, I don’t have a universal answer. As much as I would like to know one for my own well-being, I simply don’t. I do, however, have a reason not to give up, a basis not to quit. You deserve a college degree. If you didn’t, congress wouldn’t have passed legislation funding your education for goodness’ sake (Post-9/11 GI Bill/ Montgomery GI Bill)! You should not allow your disabilities to get in the way of the future you so rightly deserve; the education that could so greatly benefit you. If you are hesitant to start or continue your college education due to your disabilities, don’t be.

Fortunately, many universities offer accommodations tailored specifically for disabled student veterans. Although every school offers varying services, they all should have the intention of aiding you through education. Recognition of these services should motivate you to continue the fight and tackle your academic goals.

Furthermore, countless professors understand your troubles and are willing to help. Throughout my community college education — while I was still active duty — I would frequently have to email my professors concerning the reason I did not attend class the previous day. Of course, they were understanding of my disabilities and worked beside me so I could handle the course’s workload. I can write with confidence; I am sure you will find the same professors to support you while persevering for your education.

However, what’s more significant than a university’s accommodation program or an understanding professor? The veteran community! The incredible veteran community you will find no matter what school you decide to attend will always be there for you and your hardships. Veterans support each other, and you will quickly realize once arriving at your new school that there are many student veterans similar to you. If you are already enrolled at a university and have yet to locate student veterans, I recommend checking out your school’s Veteran Resource Center. There, you should be able to meet student veterans, sign up for veteran-specific clubs/organizations, and seek guidance from veteran counselors.

Now, I understand, thinking about dealing with your disabilities on top of an intensive academic workload can be quite daunting. It can genuinely make you want to consider other options — don’t. I deal with service-related disabilities daily. I was medically discharged from the Marine Corps due to a spinal injury. Does it affect my ability to accomplish school? Almost every day. Am I going to stop pursuing the education I deserve? You guessed it, absolutely not. I encourage you to do the same.

Managing service-related disabilities is difficult, no matter how you view it. Hopefully, my short writing will prompt you to begin, resume, or continue your college degree while enduring disabilities. Always feel free to contact me with questions regarding handling your disabilities in an academic environment; I would be more than happy to help.