California State University, Long Beach
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Help Available For Campus Veterans

Published: November 3, 2014

If military veterans on campus need assistance deciphering a vast array of benefits or guidance as they pursue a college degree, the CSULB’s Veterans Services office is at the ready. Located in the Foundation Building, the office helps student veterans with benefit certification and advocacy issues, along with accessing the educational benefits they earned by serving in the armed forces of the United States.

Headed by director Marshall Thomas, the CSULB Veterans Services office also provides assistance through the Veterans Affairs VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) counselor Lois Daz and Veterans Services advisor Lynisha McDuel.

“CSULB’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a comprehensive set of services to our student veterans and their dependents,” said Thomas. “Of course, no partnership is complete without the right people. Lois Daz and Lynisha McDuel, two of the most knowledgeable people I know, collaborate to provide information and services across the full range of state and federal benefits.”

“The purpose of having a VSOC counselor is to help veterans and service members make the transition to college life,” said Daz. “To assist with that transition, some of the services provided include VA medical referrals, career and adjustment counseling, assistance in applying for other VA benefits, job placement assistance and coordination with local Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program specialists and ocal Veterans’ Employment representatives.”

Daz splits her time between CSULB and Long Beach City College (LBCC), spending three days a week at the latter simply because its veteran population is larger. In general, LBCC’s veterans are beginning the transition out of military service and trying to figure out their next career path.

“They’re just trying to take their next step in life,” she said. “By the time they get here (CSULB) they’ve gotten into that education rhythm and know what they need to do and are comfortable with the academic environment.”

According to Daz, often times veterans ask questions just to clarify the issue at hand. Her knowledge and experience of VA related matters often enables her to provide an immediate answer. When the inquiry requires research, she makes sure to follow up with an answer and provide assistance.

The most common request from veterans is how to apply for service connected compensation. She also spends part of her time clearing up some myths.

“People think, for example, ‘It’s been five years since I’ve been in service so it’s too late for me to apply.’ That’s not true,” she said. “It’s easier to apply for benefits the closer to the date you separate, but it’s not a one-time deal.”

Daz also assists veterans with claims, particularly helping them understand unfavorable decisions.
“Sometimes they don’t understand why their claims were denied,” said Daz. “We can take a look at the decision and I can explain it to them. From there they can decide if it’s to their advantage to have that claim reopened and submit additional evidence.”

Like Daz, McDuel, assists veterans as they navigate the system.

“I’m not an academic advisor, but I have to understand academic advising and the policies and I have to understand the G.I. Bill,” said McDuel, “so my job is to figure out for the students how they intertwine and sometimes don’t. It’s my job to know the little nuances.”

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PHOTO BY DAVID J. NELSON
Working in the Veterans Services office are (l-r) Marshall Thomas, Lynisha McDuel and Lois Daz.

McDuel helps them in understanding their benefits, particularly how the G.I Bill works on campus. They also come to her for academic advising, especially when it comes to general education.

“I do go to the advising council meetings so I think I’m equipped to help them academically,” she said, “but not officially, so I give them lots of referrals. I always send them to our on-campus services first.”

McDuel says it’s never too late for veterans to ask for assistance. In fact, she encourages anybody who has any questions about their V.A. benefits to stop by.

“They may find out they weren’t aware of something that might make a difference for them,” she said. “I’ve had a number of people who have said, ‘Wow, I wish I had known this sooner’ and that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

And McDuel has her own education tale she shares with veterans. A graduate of Loyola Marymount, she changed her major seven times and still got out in four years.

“I tell the vets, ‘Don’t do what I did,’” she said, though she made sure classes she took counted somewhere. “I was my own advisor and I tell them to take things into their own hands. Don’t wait for someone else to do something for you.”

Both Daz and McDuel take great satisfaction knowing they are making a difference.

“I like being able to provide assistance that truly benefits the veteran,” said Daz. “My assistance reduces a lot of stress for veterans and service members, which means they can focus on more important things like their education and moving towards their career path.”

“The past two presidents (F. King Alexander and Donald Para) had a barbeque at the Miller House for graduating veterans,” said McDuel. “Some of the veterans get up and tell me what an impact I’ve had on their lives and that always make me feel really good, but I tell them they still would have gotten through without me because I didn’t do the work. I don’t go to classes or take tests for them. I just try to assist them with finding resources that help them through school.”

Watch video on Marshall Thomas discussing the military culture at the Veterans Summit 2012.