According to the New York Times, major delays by the Department of Veteran Affairs in issuing GI Bill benefit checks is causing countless vets to have to scramble to pay for college this semester. The new GI Bill, which took effect on August 1, 2009, was to provide more money than ever to cover tuition, books and housing. Eligible were veterans who had served since 9/11, as well as their dependents.
Because of the VA’s antiquated technology, however, the Department has been unable to keep up with the more than 277,000 new applications. In fact, the Department reported last week that it had paid tuition for just 20,000 of the applicants, plus made payments to 13,000 more for other educational expenses, such as housing and textbooks.
Processing of the benefit applications is taking as long as eight weeks. With the start of school more than a month ago for most students, this delay is causing major problems with the bursar’s office.
Many colleges are letting vets enroll in classes even without full payment from the VA, but students’ housing and book expenses are having to come out of pocket for the time being. Some veterans are digging into savings, but others are tapped out and turning to student loans to cover the gap.
More than 700 new employees have been hired by the VA to help keep up with the demand for assistance from the new bill, but clearly new technology is required as well. The Department says it is developing a new system that will speed the process, but it won’t be up and running until late 2010.
Read more about the delays and how they are affecting veterans from the New York Times here.
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