Grantee Spotlights

COVID-19 Stories: Safeguarding vets – and their own

Veterans were at risk. Often a bellwether of issues in higher education, they needed help with access to GI Bill funds and other financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

So Carrie Wofford and her 10 staffers at Veterans Education Success, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., had work to do. First, however, they had a grave concern closer to home:

Two of their own, an employee and another staffer’s child, came down with the COVID virus – “a brutal illness,” Wofford called it -- though both eventually recovered.

“Everyone on the team was really worried about both of them,” Wofford said. “This is a scary time for everyone.”

Nonetheless, her team pressed ahead with its advocacy for veterans and military families during the pandemic, undaunted despite their worries and despite having to work remotely, assembling only twice a week online.

They cut through clutter to push Congress to include GI Bill students in stimulus measures. They pressured the Veterans Administration to relax its aggressive student debt collection. They continued offering free legal advice to students (like the Navy veteran pictured above) as calls surged since more people were at home with more free time.

They even kept up their watchdogging: After a phone tip, a recent law school graduate on staff uncovered that for-profit colleges had ramped up advertising on Facebook and Instagram during the crisis, coaxing veterans and GI Bill students to enroll.

A draft of their report was cited in a widely circulated story about for-profit colleges trying to use the economic shutdown to revive their industry, despite widespread criticism that it graduates students with more debt than academic achievement.

“We’re busier than we’ve ever been,” Wofford said.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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