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Chicago code camp ‘broadens access’ for veterans by accepting GI Bill benefits

Veterans learn coding at Code Platoon

Code Platoon students — veterans receiving training in software development — work in the nonprofit’s Chicago office at 73 W. Monroe St. | Photo courtesy of Code Platoon

Chicago veterans looking to use their GI Bill benefits now have the option of attending coding camp for little to no cost.

Code Platoon, a Chicago-based nonprofit that trains veterans in web development, became the state’s first coding academy approved by the Department of Veteran Affairs to accept the GI Bill earlier this year. Its current cohort of nine students was the first to qualify to use their education benefits to cover tuition and housing costs.

Founder and executive director Rod Levy said though Code Platoon offers scholarships of more than $10,000, many veterans specifically seek out places where they can use GI Bill benefits.

“It has really broadened the access for the veterans,” Levy said. “They want to find a place that they can use their benefits specifically, so by virtue of that now we are able to offer this … and broaden our audience significantly.”

Veterans with Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits have 15 years from their last discharge date to use them. Participants taking Code Platoon courses through its online remote program do not qualify, which approves institutions on a state-by-state basis, Levy said.

For John Conway, a monthly $1,800 housing allowance serves as incentive to attend Code Platoon through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

A retired marine, Conway said he likely would not have chosen to attend development boot camp if it did not accept his benefits. Though he had prior coding experience as a hobby, he is “using the last of my GI Bill to round out my skills.”

Conway said unaccredited colleges accepting the GI Bill is not always a good thing, as many use their GI Bill approval to “rob” veterans of their benefits without offering a quality education. Code Platoon, however, is “a genuine school that is interested in teaching.”

In 2016, all eight Code Platoon graduates went on to become full-time software developers, earning a median salary of $65,000, according to its website.

With GI Bill approval, Code Platoon hopes to grow class sizes and “allow more veterans to become software development professionals,” development director Alicia Boddy said in a news release in February.