Recently the VA Center for Innovation (VACI) and VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service has decided not to continue funding the Iowa Consortium of veterans Excellence (ICOVE). In response the UIVA has written this open letter.
To whom it may concern:
It has come to our attention that the University of Iowa has dropped from No. 10 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings to No. 67 for veteran friendly schools. Although this is concerning it is our belief that the University of Iowa is doing more now than ever for Veterans, Guard/Reservists and family members of Veterans.
What is more concerning is that the Iowa Consortium of Veterans Excellent (ICOVE) will not be receiving an extension to their funding from the VA Center for Innovation (VACI) and VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service.
ICOVE was a holistic transition program designed specifically to fill the holes in the service gaps on America's campuses with regards to student veterans, their families and their significant others. This program was not only revolutionary -- but, after it was allowed to flourish in Iowa City, it became obvious that the program was necessary. This is the first program that takes responsibility for a military-affiliated student's first day on campus and keeps track of them until their first day in the office. As the first class of Veterans to receive these revolutionary services we were in a unique position to not only benefit from the program but to help build it.
The staff of ICOVE: Dr. Michael Hall, Don Rhoades, Rachel Winkler and Christine Skow listened to our feedback and adapted the program to better help us. That is exactly the kind of relationship that is needed to create a successful program and is not found anyplace else in the VA. Furthermore the leadership, mentoring and network that these wonderful people provided for the Veterans at the University of Iowa can’t be quantified. These are the types of intangible qualities that are lost on the administrators of large bureaucracies like the VA.
It is very disheartening that just as this program is about to be rolled out to other veterans, it is denied funding. We truly believe that if properly implemented the ICOVE model can help Veterans not only earn a degree but also to successfully transition into the civilian workforce -- which ultimately provides a better quality of life.
Just as our military is drawing down from the longest armed conflict in U.S. military history, more and more of our brothers and sisters are going to be in need of these exact services that ICOVE provided. It is unfathomable that a program built and tailored specifically for our needs would succumb so quickly.
Many politicians and talking heads in the past year have co-opted one of our most sacred ethos: that we never leave anyone behind. Thus, it seems ironic that the VBA finally produces something that helps students on the grass-root level and they decide to refuse to fund it. When we see the failure to fund programs like ICOVE it becomes somewhat paradoxical to us who have worn the uniform. We are leaving behind every Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman and Coastguardsman that sets foot on the University of Iowa campus. That is because they will never receive the opportunities that we have been so lucky to receive from ICOVE in the last two years.
From U.S. Military Veterans at the University of Iowa to the powers that be: ICOVE has made a difference in our education. It has made us better students. And it has assisted us into the civilian employment world.
Why would you not continue to fund a program like this?
The University of Iowa Veterans Association