SLIDE ONE: Welcome to Cerritos College. Here at the Cerritos College Veterans Resource Center, it is our duty and our honor to serve the needs of our veterans and their dependents as they pursue their educational and vocational goals here at the college. You served us, now it is our turn to serve you.
SLIDE TWO: The objectives of this orientation are to provide you with an understanding of the services offered to you as a veteran or dependent student at the Veterans Resource Center at Cerritos College. This includes information on your Veterans Education Benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, an overview on the various support and readjustment services offered by the VRC, and some important outside resources and websites that will help you further your goals as a student at Cerritos College.
SLIDE THREE: The first step towards your academic goals as an eligible veteran or dependent will be deciding whether to use your VA educational benefits, which benefit is right for you, and then applying to receive your benefits. It is important to remember that the VA Regional Processing Offices often take four to six weeks to process your paperwork, so this process must be done as early as possible. If you have not yet begun this process, you should do so IMMEDIATELY. If you're not sure whether or not you would like to use your benefits, please feel free to discuss it with a member of the VRC staff.
You can apply for benefits online at www.gibill.va.gov, clicking on "Apply for Benefits" and launching the VONAPP. After creating a VONAPP account, you will be asked which form you want to fill out from a drop box menu. You want form 22-1990, the application for education benefits. If you are electing to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you will select "Chapter 33" when asked which benefit to select. This will open up an option to waive a previous benefit. If you served on regular active duty and paid into the Montgomery GI Bill, you will select to waive Chapter 30. If you served in the reserve component, you will likely need to select to waive Chapter 1606. If you are serving in the Reserve Component or the National Guard, Chapter 33 may not be the benefit for you, and you may elect to use Chapter 1606 or 1607. If you are the dependent of a permanently disabled veteran, you may be eligible to use Chapter 35. If you are unsure how to proceed, please come to the VRC and allow one of our staff to assist you with the application. If you served in the reserves and were activated on multiple occasions, each of your active duty tours will be a separate tour on the application. Drills and annual training are not counted toward your active duty time, but your initial training (boot camp, AIT, SOI/MCT, A-school, MOS school, etc.) is counted, along with any deployments or extended terms on active duty. Also, be sure to have your bank account information (routing and account number) ready if you want the VA to pay you using direct deposit.
Once you have completed your VONAPP application, print a copy and submit it electronically to the VA. Please bring that copy in to the VRC to be placed in your file. Within a month of submission, you should receive a Certificate of Eligibility in the mail from the Veterans Administration. Please bring this in to the VRC immediately to also be placed in your file.
SLIDE FOUR: Along with the Certificate of Eligibility, the VA and Cerritos College requires a few additional forms. If you have been discharged from active duty and have a DD-214, we require a copy of your Member-4 version of the DD-214. If you are currently on active duty or serving in the drilling reserve or National Guard, we will need to make a copy of your military ID.
If you have attended any colleges in the past, we require transcripts from every previous college. You may also submit to us any military transcripts (such as the SMART transcript) that you have, but be aware that most military credits do not transfer to California Community Colleges at this time. We also require that you fill out a "Veterans Responsibility Form" which will be provided to you by our staff, along with a new student checklist. Failure to complete and/or submit these forms can result in your benefits being delayed.
SLIDE FIVE: The next step in receiving your benefits is to file a Student Educational Plan with the Veterans Resource Center. If you have not yet seen a Veterans Academic Counselor, you should make an appointment to see one immediately. The VA requires ALL students to declare a major (which is on the VONAPP application) and to take only those classes required to advance toward completion of your major course of study. Your Veterans Academic Counselor will create an educational plan for you based on your major and the requirements of the college, and the GI Bill will only pay for classes that are ON your educational plan. The counselor can also assist you with transfer planning to a 4-year university, choosing a course of study if you are undecided on a college major, and with career direction. Be advised that if you choose to take any courses not on your educational plan, the VA will not pay for them.
SLIDE SIX: Once your Student Educational Plan has been completed, you must turn in a copy to the VRC, and keep an additional copy for yourself to assist you with class selection. Now, you should be ready to register for your classes. If you have difficulty using Schedule Plus or in finding open classes, please discuss with the VRC staff. As a veteran, you qualify for priority registration here at Cerritos College: even if you are not using your GI Bill benefits, even if you are not even eligible for GI Bill or other VA education benefits, you are granted priority registration. If you have completed all the above steps before the beginning of registration, you will be given a registration date by the school that will be in advance of the general open registration period, allowing you to choose classes before the majority of students. But you must move quickly, as many classes fill up during the priority registration period and waiting to sign up for classes can limit your options. If you have any problems with using Schedule Plus on a home computer, you can use the computers in the VRC and VRC staffers will assist you. Once you have registered for all of your classes, you must complete and submit the request for certification to the VRC. This is the yellow form you should have been provided. This is letting the VRC know to certify your current semester classes with the VA for benefit payment. THE VA WILL NOT PAY YOU IF YOU ARE NOT CERTIFIED FOR THE SEMESTER. YOU MUST SUBMIT A REQUEST FOR CERTIFICATION AT THE BEGINNING OF EVERY ACADEMIC SESSION. YOU MUST ALSO USE THE FORM TO NOTIFY THE VRC OF ANY ADDED OR DROPPED CLASSES. Once you have been certified, the VA will begin processing your file for payment. You will receive your book stipend and the school will receive your tuition payment once the VA has completed processing, a process that generally takes a few weeks. In the meantime, you are granted a deferment so that the school cannot drop you from your classes while awaiting the tuition payment. IF YOU HAVE SUBMITTED ALL YOUR PAPERWORK CORRECTLY AND YOU ARE USING CHAPTER 33, YOU DO NOT NEED TO PAY FOR YOUR CLASSES OUT OF POCKET IN MOST CASES. Ask the VRC staff to be sure that the deferment is in place or to understand your exact situation, especially if you are not using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If you are receiving the Post-9/11 GI Bill (chapter 33), you will receive your BAH payment on the first day of the month AFTER the month you are being paid for. For instance, if you begin school in January, your first BAH payment will be on February 1st, and so on. Congress has recently changed the Post 9/11 GI Bill so that you cannot be paid over a break and so that you are paid on a scale according to the number of certified units you are enrolled in. Please ask the VRC for a chart showing the pay scale.
SLIDE SEVEN: The Veterans Resource Center offers a number of different services and resources to help you pursue your educational goals while readjusting to civilian life. We are visited regularly by an AMVETS Claims officer - usually on Tuesday mornings - who you can schedule an appointment with to review your medical records and to make sure that you are receiving the proper medical and - if applicable - disability benefits, along with other non-education VA benefits. Claims originated and submitted through a service officer are often completed and paid out much more quickly than those handled through the VA directly.
The VRC also partners with the North Orange County Vets Center as well as campus Student Health Services to provide access to mental health and crisis counseling. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Veterans Resource Coordinator or any member of the VRC staff so you can be referred to someone. Also, if you find yourself having a housing crisis, having difficulty paying bills or paying for books and supplies, or in any sort of legal trouble, please do not hesitate to contact the Veterans Resources Coordinator so that you can be referred to local agencies and organizations that can assist you.
If you want help with Math, English and Science courses, the VRC offers academic tutoring, the schedule of tutors can be found at the front desk or in the back room, where the tutoring is held. Tutors can assist you with homework and preparing for finals and midterms, as well as preparing to take placement exams. Technology training is also available at the VRC on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
If you're looking for work, please feel free to stop by the Veterans Resource Center and browse through our "jobs" folder, where listings of local jobs are kept. Job fairs and recruitment drives are also periodically posted in the VRC. The Veterans Resources Coordinator is also available to talk with you about your job search and suggest strategies or refer you to local employment agencies.
Finally, please know that the Veterans Resource Center is here to assist you in any way we are able. If you have an administrative item that needs to be resolved through the Admissions and Records department, the Certifying Officials at the Veterans Resource Center can, in most cases, take care of it for you. If you have ANY questions, concerns or needs, please do not hesitate to ask at the VRC and we will help you or we will direct you to the proper person or office to assist you. Our primary goal is that NO veteran will ever slip through the cracks here at Cerritos College, and in order to accomplish this, we need your help. Thank you for your attention, and, again, welcome to Cerritos College.