Military students and veterans on the South Side of San Antonio can now file their benefit claims on campus.
Texas A&M University-San Antonio and Bexar County’s Military and Veterans Services Office solidified their partnership by opening their sixth full-time satellite office on the TAMUSA’s campus Jan. 31. The satellite office, which had been open part-time since the fall semester, is now open full-time starting Feb. 1.
Accessibility to these offices can sometimes be a major issue for veterans, as they’re not able to file their claims easily.
Although there were no students at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, members of Veterans Affairs and university president Salvador Hector Ochoa were there. So were Bexar County officials, such as District 3 councilwoman Phyllis Viagran and Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores, Precinct 1.
Commissioner Clay-Flores explained why this partnership was so important to her, as well as to Bexar County. She said her brother is a veteran after serving 24 years in the U.S. Army.
“We call ourselves Military City, USA, but sometimes, we don’t act like it,” Clay-Flores said. “I support our veterans, I support my troops, I support my brother.”
Ochoa followed up with his own personal connection to the partnership between the school and the Bexar County VSO.
“It is really important to me and has personal meaning to me because my dad was a veteran,” Ochoa said. “And he was very, very proud of his role.”
Ochoa also said that as he took on the role of president at A&M-San Antonio, he was excited to learn about the satellite office inside of Patriots’ Casa because it reminded him of his father. Ochoa recently became president at A&M-San Antonio in fall 2023. Patriots’ Casa houses the military affairs office on campus.
Since August of 2023, the satellite reported 124 appointments made and 87 claims filed on campus, Ochoa said.
“I really enjoy the phrase ‘Military Embracing,’” Ochoa said. “And as a university that serves a large underserved population, we have to do things uniquely different here, and do that with pride, and joy.”
The partnership will make resources for Southside veterans more accessible and remind them that they are not forgotten, Juanita Sepulveda said.
Sepulveda, who is the vice chair of the Veterans Advisory Committee for A&M-San Antonio and a veteran with the Marine Corps, expressed the importance of A&M-San Antonio’s partnership with the Bexar County VSO.
Viagran stressed the importance of accessibility between veteran offices and veterans. She said her father was a Vietnam veteran and was granted aid and placement in a hospital through veteran offices after he fell ill.
“Accessibility is key, and this university makes it so easy for people to get on the campus and then visit where they need to go to.”
Viagran said with VIA transportation having routes to A&M-San Antonio, this opens up accessibility and opportunities to Southside veterans.
Although VIA does not have a direct route to the university, bus riders can contact the VIA link to finish the remainder of the trip.
Viagran also said it can be difficult for veterans to file claims, because they aren’t aware of all the benefits they may qualify for since that kind of information is not readily available.
Director of Military Affairs Tila Jernigan said the partnership not only benefits A&M-San Antonio veteran students, but the Southside community as a whole.
“I think that it really demonstrates the eagerness of A&M-San Antonio to assist veterans and make their resources more accessible,” Jernigan said.
Jernigan also holds future hopes for the Office of Military Affairs on campus as the veteran and military affiliated student population continues to grow.
“I hope that in five years from now, there are more services in this building, just like what we’re offering here,” Jernigan said.
Students and veterans alike can use this resource, as well as their families.
Beatriz Pizarro contributed to this story.