Veterans Waiting for GI Bill Benefits Will Get Emergency Funds

September 28, 2009

Veterans who applied for benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill but have not yet seen a check might be getting money sooner than expected, according to The Washington Post.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved emergency checks of up to $3,000 each for veterans still waiting for the payments. More than 250,000 veterans have applied for the benefits, which allow veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to attend a public, in-state college free, but less than 10 percent of applicants have received their first payments.

The department has processed all but about 72,000 of the claims, and about 25,000 of the remaining claims will probably result in payments this fall.. But before the students can receive their checks, their colleges must certify the veterans' enrollment. Many colleges have not yet done so, which the veterans-affairs department has called a source of the delays. While some colleges have postponed the tuition deadline for veterans, most students have had to pay housing costs themselves while they wait for their checks.

The backlog of cases and processing delays have angered veterans' groups."This is absolutely unacceptable," the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a veterans-advocacy group, said in a statement last week. "Delayed payments are forcing veterans to take out loans or pay out of pocket for costs the VA promised to cover. The men and women who so courageously served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve better."

The $3,000 checks, which the secretary of veterans' affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, called "an extraordinary action" in a statement issued on Friday, are advances on future GI Bill payments. In order to get the money, students must go to a regional veterans-affairs office with a photo ID and a class schedule. The department will also send representatives to colleges that enroll a large number of veterans.

Emergency checks will be issued starting on Friday.