You've earned the right to a higher education through your service in the U.S. Armed Forces. But how do you use your GI Bill benefits? Which version is right for you? The Legion can help answer questions about state and/or federal education benefits, who can use them, and how long.
When the Post-9/11 GI Bill became law over the summer, veterans and their family members showed up in masses to take advantage of it. As a result, VA became clogged with a backlog of claims and only had estimates of exactly how many individuals were using the landmark legislation. At the close of the first academic semester, VA has released a report that answers those questions, providing official statistics and giving an explanation for the backlog.
In the report, VA says 164,144 individuals have enrolled in classes under the GI Bill, and 130,309 of them have received payments. That leaves 34,000 students still waiting - a number which is down from about 240,000 in August but still seen as unacceptable by vet supporters. Currently, the VA says it is paying about 4,500 students per day, and that it takes on average 47 days to process payments from the day the school certifies enrollment in VA. In all, 352,281 people have applied for a Certificate of Eligibility, and 292,896 have received one. They will receive funding when they enroll in a school.
VA reports that $517 million has been paid out to students and $385 million to schools. An additional 65,282 payments totaling $193 million were made to students this fall during the emergency payment period, which sent advance funding to destitute individuals who were still waiting on their first GI Bill checks.
VA says that the sometimes-controversial claims process takes about one to one and a half hours to process a single payment. Four nonintegrated systems store, calculate, pay and send letters - a setup that VA calls "a burdensome entry and reentry of data".
The backlog was especially bad in the beginning of the semester, when many students were enrolled in school without having received payments. To remedy the situation, VA reports that it hired 230 employees beyond the 520 original ones. They all are required to work overtime at least three days a month.
To improve the system, VA says it continues to review the process and streamline letters to veterans and their dependents who are attending school on their behalf.