Aliki S. Escoe


Aliki Escoe started with the Department of Veterans Affairs (Muskogee, Oklahoma) in 1993. For 3 years, she worked in several departments, to include Loan Guaranty, Human Resources, and Compensation and Pension.

In 1996, she transitioned to the Education Department and worked as a Veterans Claims Examiner for 6 years, as Senior Veterans Claims Examiner 6 years, until she assumed the position of Training Coordinator/ Supervisor in 2008.

In her current position, she is one of two Coaches who oversee quality and training for education processors.

Basma Kenaya


My name is Basma Kenaya. I was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and my family and I immigrated to San Diego, CA twenty years ago. I am proud Chaldean American, and I love my country so much.

I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from San Diego State University in December 2011.

Ever since my first job as an Administrative Assistant at Cuyamaca Community College, I knew I had passion for helping students and guiding them to their success.

I have been working at National University’s Veterans Affairs Department for eight years and counting as a School Certifying Official. I am honored to serve those who served and sacrificed for our freedom.

Chelsea Jackson


Hello, my name is Chelsea Jackson. I am currently blessed to hold the position of Training Specialist with the National Training Team-Schools at VBA in Education Services. I started my career with the VBA in 2009 as a Veterans Claims Examiner in my hometown of Muskogee, OK. Since then, I have worked in all areas of Education and finally landing my dream job with the VACO National Training Team in March of 2021.

I have a passion for training, a high regard for Veterans and I believe learning should be fun! Prior to starting my career at the VBA, I earned a degree in Elementary Education from Northeastern State University. I am a wife of an Army Veteran (82nd Airborne Division) and a mother of six children. I enjoy playing and coaching basketball, as well as, watching all things sports when life and time permit.

Chai Cook


Chai Glenn-Cook, has worked in Veteran Services for 10 years and serves as the Director since 2019. The department educates campus staff and faculty, plus the Reno community on military culture via VetSmart, developed a Veteran Support Team and prioritizes student veterans engagement with alumni prior to graduation.

Chai advises the veteran graduate students club. She is a graduate of University of Nevada, with a Master’s in Public Administration.

Cheryl Iannello


Cheryl Iannello is the Assistant Deputy Secretary, Chief of Postsecondary Education for the state of California. Prior to this, Cheryl was also an Education Specialist with the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education (CSAAVE).

For almost forty years, Cheryl has worked in higher education in various roles such as Director of Veteran Student Services, Director of Education and acting Campus Director at a private postsecondary institution. She holds an Associate of Arts Degree in Marketing and Distribution, a Bachelor of Science in Business, and a Master’s Degree in Education; Curriculum and Instruction. Cheryl is very involved in the National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA) currently serving as the West Region Alternate Vice President and on the following committees:

  • Vice-Chair, Audit committee (2020 – present)
  • Member, Professional Development Committee (2021 – present)
  • Member, Conference Planning Committee (2018 – present)

Courtney White


Courtney White works for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Supervisory Veterans Claims Examiner. Courtney oversees the Work Study program at the Muskogee Regional Processing Office. She has been with the Department of Veterans Affairs since 2009, where she began her career as a Veterans Claims Examiner during the Post-9/11 GI Bill deployment. She has worked on many special project teams, including the processing of specialized detail claims; as well as, being a member of the Muskogee Outreach Team in the Education Division.

Donald Sutton


Mr. Donald Sutton enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard’s 25th Army Band in 2000, and has been involved in Army Education since 2006. He has served in the Idaho Army National Guard as a Budget Analyst, Federal Tuition Assistance Manager, GI Bill Manger, Test Control Officer, and Education Services officer. In 2013, he served an active duty tour at the Army National Guard Bureau (NGB) in the Education Branch as the branch NCOIC, and became the Army National Guard GI Bill Program Manager later that year. After leaving active duty in 2016, he transferred to the District of Columbia Army National Guard, retiring in 2020. Mr. Sutton continues working for NGB Education as the GI Bill Manager in a civilian status as an Education Program Specialist.

Erika Busbee


Erika is an 11-year Air Force veteran (Petroleum, Lubricants, and Oils – POL-2F0X1) who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary Studies from UNLV in 2014. While attending UNLV, Erika was active as a member of the Rebel Vets, a Student Veterans of America Chapter. It was through her involvement that Erika found purpose and connection.

Immediately following graduation, Erika joined the UNLV MVSC as a School Certifying Official where she served in the SCO capacity for two years before moving out of state to California. In large part to operations adaptations made during the pandemic combined with the serendipity of a visit to the office while visiting Las Vegas, the MVSC was able to offer Erika a position to re-join as an SCO in a remote capacity during the Summer of 2021.

A Redding, CA native, Erika now resides in Missouri City, Texas with her spouse, two kids, two cats, and one dog. It’s a fine house, a very, very fine house! In her free time, she enjoys expressing her creativity through various art mediums and involvement with her local art league.

Heather Cates


Heather Cates lives in Broken Arrow, OK and works out of the Muskogee RPO. Heather began her VBA career in 2009 as a Veterans Claims Examiner during the Post 9/11 GI Bill® (Chapter 33) rollout. She transitioned to and Education Compliance Survey Specialist, out-based to Seattle, Washington in 2013. In 2014, Heather returned to Oklahoma and the Muskogee RPO as a Senior Veterans Claims Examiner. Heather again transitioned to Education Compliance Survey Specialist in 2015, where she settled in until 2021, when she made the decision to lateral into the Education Liaison Representative role. In September 2021, Heather was selected for a temporary detail to the National Training Team – Compliance as a Training Specialist and was offered a permanent position on the National Training Team – Schools in November 2021.

Heather’s educational background includes a BA in Political Science and a Juris Doctor in Law, both from the University of Oklahoma and is a loyal Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Heather loves being in nature and enjoys hiking and camping. In her free time, Heather regularly volunteers at a local horse and is a hobbyist beekeeper.

Jared Lyon

National President & CEO


Jared Lyon was appointed National President & CEO of Student Veterans of America (SVA) in 2016. He leads the organization’s efforts to empower student veterans using the transformative power of higher education. Since he took office, Lyon has overseen SVA’s growth to a network of more than 1,500 chapters on campuses in all 50 states and three countries representing over 750,000 student veterans.

During his tenure, he co-authored the National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST), a comprehensive study of the first 854,000 student veterans to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In 2017 Lyon led SVA’s commitment to pass the “Forever GI Bill,” the largest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade with an economic impact of $3.4 Billion. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he served as a submariner and diver, taking part in multiple deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

Prior to joining the headquarters team at SVA, Lyon previously served as the National Program Manager for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans and as Manager of Florida Operations for the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team. Lyon is a member of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran’s Advisory Committee on Education, and a commissioner for the American Council on Education’s Commission for Education Attainment. He also serves on the advisory boards for the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation and the Florida State University Veteran Advisory Board and is a 2018 Presidential Leadership Scholar.

He holds an Associate of Arts from Eastern Florida State College, a Bachelor of Science from Florida State University, and a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, where he is currently pursuing his PhD in Social Science. In 2011, SVA named Lyon the National Student Veteran of the Year. Jared and his wife Chayla reside in Alexandria, Virginia with their son, Campbell.

James Ruhlman

Deputy Director of Program Management
Veterans Benefits Administration – Education Service


James Ruhlman was appointed as the Deputy Director of Program Management within the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Education Service in October 2017, and he has been a VA employee since July 2001.

James directs and monitors the activities within Education Service’s Oversight & Accountability and Policy & Procedures portfolios. Relevant tasks include the development of agency rules, information collections, policies, legislative proposals, views and cost estimates for proposed legislation, as well as the implementation of statutory changes, court decisions, and policy changes, and the enforcement of relevant laws and regulations governing GI Bill benefits.

Prior to joining Education Service in 2007, he served in various positions at the Atlanta Regional Processing Office (RPO) including Education Case Manager, Senior Education Case Manager, and as RPO Training Coordinator.

James is an alumnus of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and Emory University where he studied Political Science. Originally from Warren County, Pennsylvania, he currently resides Montgomery County, Maryland.

Joey Gamez


Joey Gamez has successfully served 5 years of Active-Duty status in the United States Navy. Shortly after separating in 2019, he found a great opportunity to work with National University & The Veteran Affairs Department under the Work Study Program. Later that year, National University welcomed Joey onboard as a School Certifying Official. What makes Joey unique? As a School Certifying Official, he serves students as a point of contact for National University, while being a student himself, pursing a bachelor’s degree in computer science. This strong tie with VA regulation helps aid the best possible experience for past, current, and future student endeavors.

John Murray


After retiring from the U.S. Navy, John Murray returned to his native Washington State. John has been with the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board for more than a decade. In addition to his SAA work, John also serves as the Secretary for the National Association of State Approving Agencies. John enjoys the challenges that he faces while working at a State Approving Agency given all the changes that occur every year.

John Pratt


John Pratt, served United States Marine Corps from 1986 to 1990. He has been at University of Nevada, Reno for 15 years, and has worked for Veteran Services for the past 6 years. The department educates campus staff and faculty, plus the Reno community on military culture via VetSmart, developed a Veteran Support Team and prioritizes student veterans engagement with alumni prior to graduation. Addition, John is the President of the Nevada Veterans Alumni chapter and advises our Wolf Pack student Veterans club. John is a graduate of University of Nevada, Reno with a Master’s in Higher Education Administration.

Julie Lawrence


Julie Lawrence began her federal service career at VA Debt Management Center (DMC) in 2009. In her current role as Chief of Operations for the Treasury, Education, and External Relations Division at DMC, she is responsible for coordinating all of DMC outreach efforts, responding to all congressional and executive inquiries, managing the accounts receivable portfolio referred to Department of Treasury, and supervising the administration of the accounts receivable within the Education business lines.

Julie has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wartburg College in Waverly, IA. She successfully completed the Federal Outreach Leadership Development Program in 2014 and was recognized in 2017, 2021 and 2022 as one of the DMC nominees for the Minnesota Federal Executive Board Civil Servant of the Year. She is committed to VA’s mission to serve Veterans and uses the core values of Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence (ICARE) to guide every customer interaction.

Julie is married with 3 sons. She enjoys time with her extended family, outdoor adventures, and reading.

Maddy Anderson


In 2018, Maddy moved from Minnesota to Las Vegas to start her college career at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in December 2021. During her undergrad she found her passion for working with the student population via her sorority involvement and by working various jobs on campus.

Maddy began working with the UNLV Military & Veteran Services Center (MVSC) as a ‘Peer Advisor for Veteran Education’ (PAVE) advisor, before moving into her School Certifying Official role as of May 2022. Maddy is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in Higher Education and will later obtain a master’s degree. She enjoys concerts, traveling, antiques, and chunky animals.

Malanienne Davis


Malanienne Davis is a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran, serving 6yrs active duty and 2yrs reserve. While in the military, she was stationed at various units throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and currently resides in the city of Oakland. She has used both the Montgomery GI BILL and the Post 9/11 GI BILL while obtaining her Associates, Bachelors, and Masters degrees. After being discharged from the military, she worked for the U.S. Coast Guard as a Quality Assurance Inspector and then took a position with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in 2012 as an Education Compliance Survey Specialist. As of June 2022, she has joined the National Training Team-Compliance as a Training Specialist.

Marit Solem


Marit started her VA career at the Clement J Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Intern. She was hired on shortly after working for the Compensated Work Therapy Program. In 2014, she transferred over to VBA working as an Employment Coordinator for VRE in Milwaukee. In 2016 she moved to Minnesota to be closer to family. She worked as a Vocational Rehab Counselor at an out based office in Blaine, MN for Vocational Readiness and Employment. In 2019, she started working for Education Service as and Education Liaison Representative and covered the great state of Wisconsin. She is currently detailed as a Training Specialist for National Training Team – Schools. Marit has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from University of Wisconsin Stout.

She has moved around a lot and have lived in North Dakota, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. She currently lives just outside of Minneapolis, MN. She is married to Arlen and they have three kids. They also have 2 Wirehaired Pointing Griffons named Ragnar and Ingeborg.

When she is not working you can find her travelling, spending time with my family, or working out. She plays roller derby, bikes, and supports all of her children’s hobbies and interests.

Melissa Barber


Melissa is the MVSC’s Associate Director of Certifying/SCO. She joined the as Program Coordinator/SCO in 2015, following three years as an Instructor/Advisor with the Transition Readiness Seminar (TRS) at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, CA.

A native of northwest Ohio, Melissa capitalized on scholarships, employer tuition assistance, and GI Bill® benefits to complete her degrees as a first-generation student, earning her bachelor’s degree in business from Defiance College and her MBA from Central Michigan University with sights to pursue a second master’s degree in the future.

Melissa’s extensive volunteerism and employment path as a military spouse over the past 20 years created the perfect segue into working with veterans in higher education. She has long held an affinity for process improvement and has been regularly recognized for streamlining procedures with a customer focus. She has a knack and passion for incorporating lean concepts into her work, sparking time and money-saving efficiencies.

Nick Pamperin


Nick Pamperin was appointed as the Executive Director of the Veteran Readiness and Employment Service (VR&E) on August 1, 2021. Mr. Pamperin is responsible for administering a benefits program for transitioning Service members, service-connected Veterans, and other beneficiaries in a program of more than 1,500 employees that provide over $1.4 billion in annual services.

Prior to this appointment, he served as the Assistant Director of the Buffalo VA Regional Office. In this role, he was responsible for the daily operations of an organization of over 500 employees that provided more than $900 million in annual services to Veterans and beneficiaries across the nation. During this tenure, he was also responsible for the daily operations of a Regional Processing Office that processed over $4.5 billion in VA education benefits annually.

Mr. Pamperin previously served as the Deputy Director for the Office of Strategic Planning in Washington, D.C. and played a key role in the development of enterprise-level plans to support VA and VBA’s future state of operations. He has also served in numerous leadership positions throughout VBA and was instrumental in significant modernization efforts, to include the establishment of the Office of Business Process Integration and the development of the Veterans Benefits Management System.

Samuel Lee


Dr. Samuel Lee serves as the Chief Ambassador of the California MAP Initiative, a statewide effort to promote the awarding of college credit for prior learning based on military and professional training and experience. Currently on loan from his position as Norco College Vice President, Dr. Lee has led the effort since its inception in 2017. With more than 30 years of higher education teaching and administrative experience, Dr. Lee is an innovator and leader focused on developing scalable solutions that promote equitable access, completion, transfer, and career attainment. His focused leadership on this project ensures that California Community Colleges have the support and training needed to develop new practices, articulate courses at scale, and award maximum credit for prior learning to our veterans and adult re-entry students statewide and nationwide.

Sharon Seidl


Sharon Seidl was selected to join the National Training Team – Schools Team in June 2022 as a Training Specialist. In this role, she is responsible for developing training materials for the Digital GI Bill’s Enrollment Manager and and the upcoming SCO Onboarding Preparation (SCOOP) slated to go live this Fall.

Sharon is a former Quality Training Specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) where she was previously assigned to the St Louis Region. During tenure with the Department of Veteran Affairs, she has worked in the Education Services field as an Education Liaison Representative (ELR) and Education Compliance Survey Specialist (ECSS).

Prior to coming on board with the federal government, spent several years working in the State school sector as a School Certifying Official for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and the Credit Coordinator & Test Center Administrator for Minot State University/Minot State University-Minot Air Force Base.

She holds a Master of Science degree in Management.

Outside of work at the VA, she enjoys traveling and adventures with her family and gives back to her community as a hospice volunteer, and supporting Halos of the St. Croix Valley & Feed My Starving Children.

Shannon George


Shannon George began her career with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in 2009 with rollout of the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) as a Veterans Claims Examiner (VCE). Since then, she has served in several capacities in the Education Division to include Senior VCE, Educations Quality & Training Specialist, Supervisory VCE, and various details and work groups within Education Service. In 2020, she was promoted to her current position of Assistant Education Officer for the Muskogee Regional Office.

Prior to joining VBA, she spent a decade in public relations, marketing and advertising in the financial arena at one of the largest regional banks in Oklahoma serving as the Marketing and Public Relations Regional Vice President before leaving the private sector.

In her free time, she enjoys playing music, working out, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Aaron, have three daughters, Kyle, Kory and Kody.

Since joining the VA, she has an even greater respect for the men and women that serve our country and will continue to work hard on their behalf.

Shay Norton-Leonard


Shay started with the Veterans Benefits Administration as an Education Veterans Claims Examiner (VCE) and then a Senior VCE in the Atlanta Regional Processing Office (RPO). While in these positions, Shay served as the subject matter expert for the Electronic Certification Automatic Processing project (ECAP) and for The Image Management System (TIMS). She moved to Washington DC to work in Education Service on what was then the Systems staff. She has worked for Central Office ever since managing projects such as VONAPP,, TIMS, WAVE, ECAP, WEAMS, VA-ONCE, and now Enrollment Manager. Shay is currently out-based from Central Office and lives in Michigan with her husband, 1 ½ kids (one is in college), and a dog.

Tammy Barlet

Vice President of Government Affairs


Tammy Barlet is Vice President of Government Affairs for Student Veterans of America.

She served eight years in the United States Coast Guard as an Operation Specialist Third Class Petty Officer. In 1998, she patrolled the Persian Gulf on the USCGC Chase (WHEC-718) for Military Interdiction Operations (MIO). During this patrol, USCGC Chase diverted four vessels in violation of United Nations Sanctions against Iraq, interdicted 1,527,740 gallons of fuel oil, and conducted eighty-six gunnery exercises. Her last duty station was the Vessel Traffic Service Houston/Galveston. She was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for de-escalating an incident that could quickly have become a Homeland Security Threat.

After returning home to Pennsylvania, Tammy was certified as a sterile compounding pharmacy technician and worked in the Lehigh Valley area for ten years.

Tammy holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and a bachelor’s in public health from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. While pursuing her studies, Ms. Barlet fulfilled her MPH practicum requirements at Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society as a State Policy Intern and The Mission Continues fellowship as a Policy Associate at Student Veterans of America. She received the Distinguished Undergraduate Internship Award from the College of Public Health at Temple University for her work during her internship in Alaska. In 2021, Tammy was awarded Temple University’s Public Health Alumni award for her advocacy work to ensure veterans receive timely, high-quality health care.

As a 2019 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellow, Ms. Barlet’s proposal revolved around oral health as preventative care for the veteran population. The VFW used her research as a part of the written testimony for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health legislative hearing later that year.

Tammy’s knowledge and expertise in public health and VA led her to testify before the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on mental health, preventative care, reproductive health, women veterans, and extended care services.

Tammy resides in Maryland and enjoys quilting, kayaking, hiking, biking, and geocaching.

Get in Touch

Chris Henthorn
WAVES President
Veteran, Residency & Registration Advisor
University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064


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