The newly instituted Post-9/11 GI Bill promises to afford thousands of recently returned U.S. military veterans the benefits of much-deserved higher education, but some students say late payments by VA are putting an undue strain on their finances.
While pleased with the much-improved educational benefit, some veteran students are concerned that a delay in payments from VA may cause them to suffer deeper personal debt, while struggling to cover unpaid bills. A number of student veterans have been forced to take out loans or seek extra employment to meet school expenses while they wait for overdue GI Bill benefit checks to arrive.
“The American Legion sympathizes with these overburdened students,” American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill said. “These veterans of our current conflicts deserve to be able to concentrate wholly on their studies, and not worry about how to pay for the schooling they have earned. It is our hope that by working together, VA and the universities can develop a plan that will not deny an eligible veterans the opportunity to attend classes while waiting for the arrival of the VA benefits.
“We urge the institutions of higher learning to grant financial leniency to their student veterans while the VA works to reduce the time it takes to process educational payments. After all, it is a virtual certainty that VA will issue the checks that are owed to our eligible veterans attending college. It’s just a matter of time. Hill said the Legion stands ready to assist both VA and GI Bill users during the rough spots.
“While we appreciate the considerable challenge faced by the VA in administering this new benefit, the delay in payments is an indication that the VA will indeed benefit from the additional full-time staff and mandatory overtime hours for existing employees recently granted by Secretary (Eric) Shinseki in order to help meet the payment schedules,” Hill said. “The American Legion stands ready to assist enrolling students with the filing of their educational benefit claims and to work with campus veterans program administrators to prevent veterans from having to choose between paying bills and attending class. The education of our new veterans is a valuable investment in America’s future and should not be compromised.”
Student veterans can contact The American Legion directly for assistance with educational benefits questions and issues at (202) 263-2995, or by sending an e-mail to the vice president of the National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Legion has created a Web site, www.mygibill.org, to aid veterans in understanding and applying for their benefits under the new Post-9/11 GI Bill.