Vets Waiting For GI Bill Funds Will Receive Emergency Aid

By Staff
October 1, 2009

Thousands of veterans who are waiting for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to deliver education benefits promised under the Post 9/11 GI Bill will be eligible to receive $3,000 in emergency aid to help cover their housing and textbooks.

"Students should be focusing on their studies, not worrying about financial difficulties," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in a statement that was quoted in The Washington Post.

The new GI Bill has resulted in a flood of applications which is causing a backlog at VA. The Post reports that out of 251,000 students who have submitted claims this year, less than 10 percent have received checks. While many universities are deferring tuition payments, other students have been forced to take out loans, use credit cards and even consider dropping out of school in order to make ends meet.

"I am living off savings now and a little help from my parents," said Jeff Kohler, a former Navy petty officer at Ohio State University who was interviewed by Army Times. He noted that he was counting on living stipends from VA, but was informed that because of the backlog, he may not receive funds until November 1.

"I need to consider dropping out and coming back when VA has their ducks in a row," added former Army Spc. Joya Myers, who was depending on the GI Bill to help cover her education expenses at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. "My father helps when he can and usually that keeps a roof over my head, but as far as food, car payment and other bills, I call and plead with them not to put it on my credit report."

According to Keith Wilson, director of VA's education service, the department is communicating with school officials to reassure them that tuition and fee payments are one the way. The department has been processing about 2,500 claims a day since the August 1 launch of the new veterans benefit, and employees have been required to work overtime.

"We're doing everything we can," said Wilson.

Meanwhile, veterans service organizations praised the announcement that DVA would provide immediate aid. "We are proud to see Secretary Shinseki take immediate action to ensure student veterans are able to remain in school on concentrate on what is important: attaining a college degree," Derek Blumke, executive director of Student Veterans of America, told the Post. "It's not over yet--there's still the backlog."

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