Veterans Services loses its coordinator

A coordinator of Veterans Services has resigned for the second time this year.

Roderick Santulan, who has been the coordinator of SIU’s Veterans Services since July, has resigned and his last day will be Dec. 11.

As a result of turnover in the center’s coordinators, Veterans Services lost a grant this year that has given the group more than $100,000 in the past. Before Santulan, the center had a certifying specialist in charge for six months after the former coordinator resigned in January. The Veterans Cash Grant has been awarded to the university’s Veterans Program since 2006.

The grant assists veterans and their immediate family members by aiding health insurance costs, long-term care, post-traumatic stress disorder research or treatment, disability benefits and housing assistance, according to the IDVA website.

Santulan said in November that he was working hard to get the grant back for the students in the spring.

Students involved in the program held a meeting Thursday night with Peter Gitau, associate vice chancellor of student life and intercultural relations. Heidi Belec, a senior studying cinema and photography and treasurer for Veterans Services, said at the meeting one of her main concerns with Santulan’s resignation was the grant’s status.

“The veterans have witnessed a high turnover with the Veterans (Services) director position four times since 2011, and a majority of the veterans are unsatisfied with this administration and needed that IDVA grant for our health and dental,” Belec said.

Gitau told the veterans that the coordinator’s duties and responsibilities were made clear to the applicants before they applied for the position. He distributed the form that states the director’s responsibilities to each applicant, he said.

“The coordinator was not asked to leave,” Gitau said. “He made the decision to do so on his own.”

SIU Veterans had the chance to meet with each coordinator candidate during the hiring process, she said. Students at the meeting said they never saw the distributed form, but some think the responsibilities required one person to do the job of two people.

“I don’t think there was accurate communication between the administration and the veterans because I know I didn’t have that understanding that the job of the Veterans (Services) coordinator and the certifying official would be combined,” Belec said. “But to make one person responsible for all of that is a lot.”

Belec said Santulan did an outstanding job getting to know the veterans, showing his passion for the program and handling all of the responsibilities his position entailed.

Another major concern was the new Students Services building, which will house all student services centers within the same building.

Gitau said the building’s goal  is to have everything become a one-stop-shop for students. Mike Rann, an accountant in the financial aid office who handles all of the veteran students’ school funding and benefit processing, said he will have an office within financial aid rather than with Veterans Services office.

“If this new building is meant to keep everyone together, then why can’t Mike have an office within the Veterans Services office?” said Ryan McKennedy, a senior from Rockford studying psychology and vice president of the Veterans Organization.

Rann said spring financial aid processing is his main concern right now.

“I will continue to do the job I have been doing no matter where I am located, but I will not answer the question of where I would prefer to be located,” he said.

Gitau said a lot of research and planning went into the decision to construct the Student Services building, but placing Rann’s office within the Veterans Services office will continue to be revisited.

“We will continue to be sensitive to the needs of the veterans because we don’t want your benefits or the process of getting your benefits to be tampered with in any way,” Gitau said.

 

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