Carnegie Mellon University

The Piper

CMU Community News

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November 10, 2021

Veterans Resource Center Opens on Campus

By Kelly Saavedra

Mike Danko wears his U.S. Army Veteran hat so often, sometimes he forgets he has it on. Inside a local convenience store, he reached for his wallet to pay for a cup of coffee, but the cashier recognized his hat and said, “Your coffee is free. Thank you for your service.”

There are far more benefits available to military veterans than free coffee from select stores. Carnegie Mellon University wants faculty, staff and student veterans to know a Veterans Resource Center is now open on campus where they can get help with their many federal, state and local benefits, some of which they may not even be aware.

The new Veterans Resource Center is in the lobby of the GATF Building on Forbes Avenue. Danko, who manages the university’s ROTC program, is also serving as veterans services coordinator.

“This is a one-stop shop where a veteran at Carnegie Mellon can walk in and get all the help they need with their federal, state and local benefits during a day when they’re at work,” Danko said.

Prior to the center opening, a veteran working at CMU typically had to make benefits-related phone calls themselves, often didn’t know where to find what they needed, or they might not have been able to take the time necessary to get to the right offices.

“Rather than take time off to try to get to the American Legion, or VFW, or Allegheny Veterans offices, now they can walk down the street,” Danko said.

“The more our veterans know about their benefits, the more they will know how appreciated they are.”
— Mike Danko

Danko is the right man for the job. He has been handling student veterans benefits at the university since 2014, and he has all the contacts.

“Take education benefits, for example. Veterans benefits cover not only attending college but also attending a trade school. In some cases, they can even attend a school that helps them enhance their skills for their job or prepares them for another job,” Danko said. 

There are a number of health care benefits veterans might not realize they have. They can also get help with preparing their income tax returns. Special license plates are available to them as well as assistance at work if they are having difficulty paying their rent. And many businesses offer discounts they don’t advertise.

“Maybe someone hurt their back when they were in the Army 10 years ago, and they could use a parking space closer to their office. I can advocate for them on things like that,” Danko said.

Danko hopes veterans at Carnegie Mellon will use the center to find out about the many benefits available to them.

At the very least, he hopes they will show their ID card or their Veteran-stamped license the next time they are in a GetGo and accept the cup of coffee for free.

“Little things like that add up to big things, when it comes to showing appreciation. It builds a sense of community and pride,” he said.

“The more our veterans know about their benefits, the more they will know how appreciated they are.”