As our nation struggles with record labor shortages, education officials should be looking for ways to help and not hinder veteran transition from military service to the workforce.

Our nation’s veterans, who patriotically served, have the well-deserved reputation for being smart, responsible and hard-working employees when they move to the civilian workforce, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, higher education policies currently being considered by the Department of Education will restrict veteran access to schools of their choice. If implemented, they will slow the pipeline of a well-trained and educated labor force at a time of historic need while also disrespecting veterans by diminishing benefits they earned through their service to this country.

As an Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Air Force veteran, single mother, and CEO of a non-profit organization founded to help veterans transition from service to civilian life, this is not an abstract policy issue to me, it is my daily reality and has deep profound impacts on my community.

When I transitioned from active duty, I learned very quickly that in order to be successful in the civilian sector I had to meet the black and white credentials written on a job description. I understood that in order to be relevant, and to continue to be a servant leader — serving my community — I must not only meet the job requirements, but exceed them. I believe that we, the military community, raised our right hand to serve, defend, and protect, and in doing so we should fully utilize our earned benefits so that we may be able to be productive and continue serving. Though our uniforms change, our desire to serve doesn’t.

My own experience in the civilian workforce made me much more attune to the struggles many of my fellow servicemen and women face. Disheartened by the sheer number of my peers who struggled to make a successful transition to civilian life, my family and I formed the Centurion Military Alliance, or CMA, to help prepare service members for personal and financial success after their service is complete. A key aspect of our program is assisting veterans as they make informed decisions about their education — whether they choose to go to a public university, college, or career school.

Many of these men and women are spouses, parents, and/or breadwinners who depend on a college that offers them the flexibility to advance their education and future potential while still earning a necessary paycheck. They are not the “traditional” students seeking to attend a “traditional” four-year college.

Access to a menu of college choices is something that should be celebrated, not hindered by Department of Education officials who haven’t had to experience the challenges my members experience on a daily basis. Yet, somehow, the debate is still stuck in dusty disagreements over “traditional” versus “non-traditional” college. Some policymakers don’t understand — or want to understand — how these schools work outside of the traditional campus confines, and want to prevent veterans from enrolling in them. How? By using the fine print of the GI bill to restrict how they can use the education benefits they earned through their service.

I’m proud that I earned my bachelor and masters degrees, as well as my doctorate, through online colleges. I chose this path because I was working full time and a single mother. As a result, I now have the opportunity to connect veterans with some of our nation’s leading employers, who choose to work with us to access talented, trustworthy and dedicated veterans, many of whom, in fact, earned their education and training at these non-traditional colleges.

Veterans, by virtue of their sacrifice and service, have earned the right to utilize their educational choices they deem to be in their best interest. Their desire and options to advance their employment and earning potential should be commended, not constricted.

As our nation struggles with record labor shortages, education officials should be looking for ways to help and not hinder veteran transition from military service to the workforce.

Dr. Chaunte Hall is a retired Air Force veteran and CEO of the Centurion Military Alliance, a non-profit organization that helps service members and veterans transition their military skills into a civilian career.

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