The first U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs town hall at UC Berkeley will take place Tuesday, June 7, at Alumni House, as part of the VA’s ongoing outreach to vets and their families. as well as vet service groups, community partners and non-governmental organizations.
The VA, the campus’s Re-entry Student Program and the Cal Veteran Services Center will present information from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Afterward, there will be workshops and individual or group meetings based on needs and interests.
Tara Ricks, the public affairs officer with the VA’s Northern California Health Care System in Sacramento, said the campus was selected for a town hall aimed at serving veterans in the area, including the approximately 350 former military service members at UC Berkeley, and to give younger vets a more comfortable, contemporary setting in which to meet than the traditional veterans’ hall that may be more familiar to older vets.
“The more veterans we can reach, the more veterans we can help,” said Ricks.
Every vet has a story and needs. While some vets who have returned from war-zone deployments share issues with anxiety, post-traumatic stress and sleep, Ricks said, others require physical adjustments so they can attend school or need special help to deal with traumatic brain injury.
A question-and-answer session will cover veterans’ benefits that support higher education, Ricks said. In addition, vets will be able to consult with representatives of the VA Benefits Office in Oakland, VA Medical Health Care System in San Francisco, the VA’s Northern California Health Care System, county and state veterans’ support operations and staff from the congressional offices of Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin).
“They don’t want sympathy. They want to be heard,” Ricks said.
UC Berkeley News has recently profiled student veterans, including ex-Marine and 2016 graduate Brian Vargas, who is assisting a U.S. Veterans Affairs psychologist in designing a novel method of deterring veterans from impulsive firearms suicide. He is also working for Rep. Swalwell, and will attend the town hall.
Another story looked at student/combat veterans participating in research examining the power of nature to alleviate stress, particularly as experienced while white-water rafting.