Mitra S. is our veteran of the month for July 2023. She is an amazing and resilient woman. Mitra wanted to join the military at 27 but was told at that time she was too old to join. After the Iraq war, the age increased to 39 for women due to the Stop Loss program. The military simply didn't have enough soldiers. She was approached by a recruiter while she was attending college; she decided to go to college later in her life rather than right out of high school. She was 39 when she joined the Army. She served as a 68W combat medic and loved what she was doing. Her station was Fort Carson, Colorado. She entered the Army in 2006, was affectionately harassed by younger recruits in boot camp, gave them heck right back, and was honorably discharged in 2010.
Mitra returned to college on the GI bill, a benefit for service members that pays for college education. She decided to do her internship at Standing Rock under LaDonna, a member of the Lakota Nation. With one semester left of college, the GI Bill program absconded her disability, claiming she had to pay back her student loans. Rumor among the military members and veterans was that the GI Bill was privatized (an endnote later). Without going into complexities, this situation led to Mitra losing her home. Not wanting to be arrested for being homeless in Colorado, she camped in a national forest until she successfully had her disability reinstated. Upon receiving her benefits again, she found land in another state and began her off-grid homestead journey which she loves.
Mitra wants to return to college to finish her degree; however, when the government shut down in 2019, her federal student loan payments were not paid to the college she attended, the university did not get paid the $12,000.00 it was supposed to receive from those loans. Although she is determined to figure out how to get the university paid so she can receive her grades and pursue her Masters, she continues to push forward and never give up.
End note: Mitra is not alone in having the GI Bill create problems. She and three other soldiers went to the VA office on the day after they were supposed to be paid. None of the veterans knew each other nor planned the visit together yet they discovered that each of them was there for the same problem. Why the GI Bill became an issue for veterans, I cannot find conclusively. I did find some articles about the problem in the Military Times from 2020. One article was about the problem of “swapping” (link below). This author is uncertain if it relates to the issue in this article but I do hope the problem is or will be resolved for Mitra and all our military members.