Karla Siejas, Army Spouse

A recent state law passed in California, thanks to the efforts of UC Merced Interdisciplinary Humanities graduate student Karla Seijas, she is poised to significantly impact access to education for the dependents of disabled veterans.

Seijas spearheaded the proposal for Assembly Bill 1745, aimed at expanding the CalVet College Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents Program. This bill broadens eligibility criteria, particularly for children of service-connected disabled veterans, by raising the income cap definition from the federal poverty level to the California poverty level. Consequently, disabled veterans' dependents can now engage in part-time employment (up to 20 hours per week) without jeopardizing their eligibility for the tuition waiver benefit, thus facilitating their pursuit of higher education.

Seijas, whose spouse is a service-connected disabled combat veteran, intimately understands the challenges faced by veterans and military families. This firsthand experience has fueled her dedication to crafting policy solutions to enhance the lives of others.

Drawing from her research in the Department of Anthropology and Heritage Studies under Professor Robin DeLugan, Seijas aims to raise awareness about post-9/11 benefits to military families. Her research focuses on examining the impact of public policy on these families, with her dissertation exploring how federal labor laws contribute to underemployment and unemployment among post-9/11 military spouses.

Seijas' journey into public service began during her undergraduate years in political science and continued through her master's degree in public policy at California State University, Northridge. Following her studies, she worked in public policy and government relations in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

After marrying an active-duty U.S. Army servicemember in 2007 and experiencing multiple relocations and deployments for over a decade, Seijas settled in Merced with her family upon her husband's retirement from the Army. Her commitment to serving the veteran community led her to volunteer and advocate for improvements to the Merced Veterans Memorial Building, resulting in significant upgrades funded by the local government.

Professionally, Seijas has engaged in public policy research at UC Merced's School of Engineering and served as a graduate support staff member in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts. Her extensive experience in public policy informs her advocacy efforts for the post-9/11 military community, driven by a deep sense of duty to support military spouses and their children.

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