U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice, a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, announced recently that Nassau Community College (NCC) and Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) will host a full-time student veterans counselor through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) VetsSuccess on Campus (VSOC) program. Rice made the announcement at NCC’s Veterans Resource Facility, joined by NCC President Dr. Hubert Keen, local veteran leaders, officials from Nassau County Veterans Service Agency and Northport VA Medical Center, and Chris Holder, the incoming VSOC counselor for Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
Opened in 2014, NCC’s Veterans Resource Facility is a 2,500-square foot space dedicated to supporting student veterans as they transition to academic and civilian life. In 2015, NCC submitted a joint proposal with SCCC to host a counselor through the VSOC program, which began as a pilot program in 2009 and has since been successfully implemented at schools across the country. The VSOC program offers a wide range of counseling and benefits assistance services to veterans, service members and dependents as they continue their education, pursue job opportunities and adjust to civilian life.
In November 2015, Rice led the Long Island congressional delegation in a letter to then-VA Secretary Robert McDonald urging the VA to approve the proposal. Long Island is home to more than 100,000 veterans, including a growing number of post-9/11 veterans using their G.I. Bill benefits to advance their education at schools like NCC and SCCC. Previously, the only VSOC counselor in the entire state was located 275 miles away from NCC at Syracuse University. Rice continued working with NCC to push the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to approve the proposal, and in late 2017 Rice’s office was notified that VBA had approved the plan for a VSOC counselor to be co-located at NCC and SCCC.
“I’m excited to announce that Long Island will now be home to a full-time counselor serving student veterans, service members and military families in Nassau and Suffolk counties,” said Rice. “We’ve pushed the VA for more than two years to make this decision because we have real need and demand for these services on Long Island, with more and more post-9/11 veterans continuing their education and pursuing jobs and new career opportunities as they transition to civilian life. I’m grateful for the knowledge and experience that Mr. Holder brings to this position, and I look forward to working together to provide Long Island’s student veterans with the support, benefits and opportunities they’ve earned.”
Chris Holder, the incoming VSOC counselor, is a former Marine Corporal who previously worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in the New York VA Regional Office. In his role as VSOC counselor co-located at NCC and SCCC, Mr. Holder will serve as the first point of contact for student veterans with questions about the VA, and will provide a range of counseling services related to education, adjustment and transition to civilian life, VA medical benefits information, applying for and understanding other VA benefits, and referrals to other community organizations as needed.
“We are so pleased and thankful to Representative Rice for her hard work and diligence in securing a veterans’ counselor for Nassau Community College,” said NCC President Dr. Hubert Keen. “Having been founded on the site of a former military base, NCC has a long history and tradition of supporting our veterans in their return to civilian life after serving their country. That tradition has been enriched with the addition of the on-campus counselor. He will provide yet another layer of assistance to the many supports NCC already provides to its student veterans. The addition of a veterans counselor improves our mission to assure that our veterans receive all of the support and benefits they so richly deserve.”