Current Events

Title:New VA partnership expands power of peer support among student Veterans

Author:Reprinted with permission, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Date:August 2016

Volume:Volume 3 Issue 121

Today in Ann Arbor, Michigan, representatives from more than 40 colleges and universities have come together to learn ways to support student Veterans that face two significant changes simultaneously: transitioning from the military to civilian life and the transition from the military to academia. Neither of these is easy and both are often complicated by a reluctance to ask for help.

This was the rationale behind the development of Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE), a peer-to-peer program developed at the University of Michigan Health System. PAVE links trained student Veterans at participating schools with incoming student Veterans to create a campus community where support and resources can be easily accessed. The group assembled in Ann Arbor will receive PAVE training that covers a variety of topics, including effective outreach, communications skills, warm handoffs to resources, healthy boundaries and self-care, and strategies for program sustainability. PAVE also shares best practices for engaging student Veterans and collaborating with relevant campus departments.

PAVE began as a partnership between University of Michigan Health System and Student Veterans of America. To date, the program has been fully implemented on 12 and will be expanding to 30 additional sites over the next year. Plans are already underway for a full national roll-out.

PAVE is proud to recognize VA as one of its new strategic partners. Through this new relationship, VA can work with PAVE to align VA outreach efforts on campuses in order to provide as many avenues of support for student Veterans. This partnership is exciting on a national level because of the opportunity to collaboratively address gaps in services; and on a local and community level, because it increases awareness of and access to VA resources.

For a historical context, the 1944 passage of the Montgomery Bill led to a large increase in the number of student Veterans on campuses across the country. In 2009, creation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill resulted in another significant growth period, with more than 1 million people taking advantage of the bill during its first four years. By 2020, an estimated 5 million people will be classified as Post-9/11 Veterans further increasing the potential use of these benefits.

We here at the PAVE Program are dedicated to creating communities of support for our student Veterans. Just as returning Veterans from the "Greatest Generation" on the original GI Bill shaped the future of the country and the world, we look forward to similarly impressive contributions from this generation of student Veterans. These Veterans have admirably served us. We need to continue, through programs on our campuses and elsewhere, to serve them.

To learn more about PAVE, please visit and view the message below from Matt Collier, VA's Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Strategic Partnerships.

Jane Spinner is project officer for strategic initiatives at the University of Michigan Depression Center and Department of Psychiatry. In this position, she oversees the design, development, and implementation of major projects and initiatives that address the mental health needs of special populations, and helps translate clinical research advances in mental health to those in need in Michigan and nationally. Ms. Spinner has over 30 years of experience in the health care field, with a background as a clinician, health care business executive, and an entrepreneur. She has specific expertise in strategic marketing planning and center of excellence development for health care systems, physician groups, and corporations. She is project director for the M-SPAN programs and services.

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