As veterans expecting checks from the new Post 9/11 GI Bill continued to find empty mailboxes this month, it put Kansas University students like Daniel Craig in a bad spot.
Expecting his $1,000 monthly stipend that had been part of his planned budget, Craig hadn’t begun to look for a job this semester. The medically retired veteran expected the allowance to cover his expenses.
“I just had to apply for a loan” to pay for monthly expenses like rent and other bills, Craig said. “I know a lot of guys in that boat.”
Facing a large number of applicants for the new GI Bill, which offers more financial incentives than its predecessor, the Department of Veterans Affairs was unable to process all the claims in the expected time.
At KU alone, more than 300 students receive GI Bill benefits. More than 25,000 have signed up nationwide.
A VA announcement last week said emergency advances on payments up to $3,000 would be available to veterans who had not yet received checks. Those payments will be available beginning on Friday to veterans who can show a photo identification and proof of enrollment.
The checks will be available at regional Veterans Affairs centers — the closest one to KU is in Wichita.
KU offered the Veterans Affairs department space for a representative on campus to deliver the emergency checks, said Betty Childers, Department of Veterans Affairs certifying official at KU. Plans had not yet been finalized as of Wednesday afternoon.
She said students would not have to worry about late tuition payments, as KU allows veterans extra time to pay for tuition as their GI Bill funding becomes available.
Felix Zacharias, president of the KU Collegiate Veterans Association, said his organization had been working with the VA and members of the Kansas congressional delegation to ensure that 300 GI Bill students wouldn’t have to cut class to make trips to Wichita to ensure they get their funding.
Zacharias said he understood that the VA was swamped, but appreciated the availability of the upcoming emergency funds.
“It’s a simple financial problem,” he said. “At some point, a guy’s got to eat.”
He said that he, too, had heard from a number of KU veterans facing eviction or are unable to pay monthly bills.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the VA announced that veterans could also apply for the emergency advance online at va.gov starting Friday. Online applicants would receive emergency payments through the mail after processing.
“VA is adapting to meet the financial needs of our veteran-students who are on campus,” U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said in a release. “They should be focusing on their studies, not worrying about financial difficulties.”
The VA encouraged veterans to check mailboxes and bank accounts before leaving for a VA office, as funds may have arrived before they leave.