Conservative

O’Connor: SU-sponsored veteran resources are integral to a more supportive culture

Institutions like Syracuse University are picking up the slack at a time where government-sponsored resources have failed to help veterans comprehensively transition into stable lives on U.S. soil.

SU’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families recently created the Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, which is being promoted as a one-stop shop for entrepreneurial veterans. The Center of Excellence will play a key role in centralizing SU’s existing resources as a supplement to the university’s veteran programs, including the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families (EBV-F), which has been one of SU’s main engines in getting post-9/11 veterans’ feet off the ground when returning from service.

The university’s latest entrepreneurship initiative is nothing short of admirable when veterans aren’t receiving enough support from the federal government. And in this way, SU could be on the verge of sparking a movement among institutions to help counteract Washington’s failure to take care of veterans’ post-service well-being and employment status.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is arguably one of the most corrupt government agencies out there and has consistently been under the microscope of federal investigators. It is accused of everything from falsifying waiting lists to allowing unwarranted salary increases. Former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican, published a report in 2014 that found the VA’s negligence may have even been responsible for 1,000 veteran deaths and $845 million in malpractice suit payouts over a 10-year period.

Veterans are the people who’ve risked their own lives for the freedoms of others. There is no excuse for doctors and bureaucrats under the VA to turn their backs on those who are in dire need of assistance. That’s why it’s imperative for private institutions like SU to step in where the government has fallen flat.

IVMF’s work for veterans comes as a breath of fresh air in addressing an area that is full of potential. In 2011, the Small Business Administration found that veterans were 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than people without military experience. SU can seize this opportunity to train veterans who are hard-working and disciplined individuals to help power the economy.

This may sometimes prove to be a daunting task — considering government bodies likely have greater financial resources and more political influence than private organizations — but SU has proven that it is possible to excel.

“We have done all this work over these years of designing world-class educational training programs focused on helping veterans become business owners,” said Mike Haynie, the vice chancellor for veteran and military affairs at SU and executive director and founder of IVMF. “The Center of Excellence is that logical next step to bring together all of what we’ve learned.”

Along with partners such as First Data Corporation and JPMorgan Chase, the university can build on its powerful global brand and aid veterans in much-needed employment areas.

In late 2014, Capital Data found that national unemployment was highest for post-9/11 veterans at 5.7 percent. And despite the end of veteran homelessness in the city of Syracuse in late 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approximates that there are still more than 47,000 cases across the country.

Whether it’s brainstorming an idea, planning how to execute it or learning specific techniques for a real-life startup, it’s necessary to lay the groundwork to ease veterans’ back into employment in order to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. For SU to have a central hub for classes that give veterans business advice and even an MBA, these opportunities can ensure basic well-being is supported and accounted for through university resources. This is especially valuable considering studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between veteran unemployment and the severity of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Colleges can be one of the best places in boosting the prospects of those returning from service. U.S. News & World Report found that SU was one of the top 50 schools of higher education in 2016 for helping veterans. And this new entrepreneurship pledge could prove to be a game-changer that will simultaneously put SU on the map in a way that veterans have faith in the fact that they’re receiving a top-tier education after coming home.

SU’s work to provide veterans with entrepreneurship classes has grown rapidly from its humble beginnings. As Haynie explained, there were only 17 people in the first graduating “entrepreneurship bootcamp” class for veterans with disabilities 10 years ago. In 2015, the university put 25,000 veterans through its programs. Haynie also said that SU’s signature EBV program was so successful locally that it has spread to nine other college campuses, responsible for a 70 percent veteran venture creation rate.

Sooner rather than later, more veteran-oriented institutions should be born with the purpose of enhancing employment prospects, taking leadership from the battlefield and into the boardroom. And it shouldn’t go unnoticed that SU is leading the troop in the process.

Kyle O’Connor is a sophomore sport management major and political science minor. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at kdoconno@syr.edu.

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