UMass Lowell Senior Helps Vets Battle for Military Benefits
By Emily Riemer
LOWELL, Mass. —David Tetreault spent a year deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
"That's me setting up all of the weapons up top in the turret," he explained, pointing to a photo that shows him standing inside an armored vehicle.
As a soldier, Tetreault said he mastered leadership, time management and marksmanship.
"When I qualified, I hit every target," he recalled, smiling. "So they said, 'OK, he's in the gunner seat.'" Watch the report
But back home, Tetreault said he faced another battle, sorting through federal paperwork to apply for military benefits.
"This is what a veteran would see," he said, holding a stapled stack of double-sided documents. "You don't even know what is what. And then boom, you have the application on page seven."
A senior at UMass-Lowell, Tetreault turned his frustration into a business idea using the school's DifferenceMaker program.
"We encourage our students to make a difference in an innovative, entrepreneurial way," said UMass-Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney. "We coach the students and help them to learn how to create a project that will solve a problem."
Tetreault has put together a team to help him design a web platform that will ask veterans to respond to simple questions in order to determine whether they qualify for certain disabilities or benefits.
"So that way, when they finish answering all of the questions that we have on the platform, this will actually complete the application for them," Tetreault said. "And they print it out. And they send it to the VA."
Tetreault said he never would have been aware of this problem if he hadn't served in the military himself.
He now hopes to create a nonprofit to support the new web service after it's released. He also plans to get his MBA.