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Delayed GI Bill funds leave students scrambling

Mar. 9, 2012 - 01:38PM   |   Last Updated: Mar. 9, 2012 - 01:38PM  |  
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The Veterans Affairs Department says it has hit a "bump in the road" in processing GI Bill benefits claims. Affected student veterans are calling it missing rent money.

VA's Buffalo, N.Y., regional office that processes claims for East Coast colleges and universities is up to seven weeks behind, meaning that schools are late receiving tuition and fee payments and students are left empty-handed if they are expecting a monthly living stipend.

VA did not respond to questions about the Buffalo problem submitted by Military Times. Instead, days after inquiries were made about GI Bill claims problems reported by readers, a statement from the VA's education service chief director was posted on VA's official blog, VAntage Point.

It is unclear how many payments are delayed, but VA records show that more than 21,800 Post-9/11 GI Bill claims were pending nationwide as of Monday.

In the statement, Keith Wilson, who is about to leave his post as director of VA's education service to become director of VA's Roanoke, Va., regional office, acknowledged delays but said they were isolated. VA has applied extra "resources and manpower to work overtime and address the issue immediately" and the oldest claims, dating back as far as January, will receive "special processing," he wrote.

"We are increasing the use of overtime and adding additional resources to provide payments to these veterans within the next 7 to 10 business days," Wilson said.

"This is not a nationwide issue, but we have received more enrollments than we had anticipated at one of our regional processing offices," Wilson says in the statement. He does not identify which office, but student veterans said the problem is at the Buffalo site.

"VA apologizes for any delay or hardship for student veterans, and we are taking immediate corrective actions," Wilson's statement says. "Veterans who have an urgent and immediate financial need because they are due education benefits that have not yet been paid should contact us."

Help is available from">a GI Bill website.

Joshua Ray, a Navy veteran attending Yale University on GI Bill benefits, said, "Several people I know, including yours truly, are struggling to know what to do, what to tell the landlord when we don't have all the rent, how to keep the lights on."

Ray said he last receiving a living stipend in December, and that was a partial payment. "A thousand dollars is not much to live on from December to mid-March, and the absolute lack of any information keeps vets paralyzed, unsure how to proceed," he said.

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