Two months into the fall semester, up to 30,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are still waiting for the Department of Veterans Affairs to distribute checks to pay for their tuition and living expenses through the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
Micah Snead, a student at the University of Colorado, Denver, was forced to take out student loans for his tuition, rather than wait for the VA to pay his benefits.
We fought enough in the last couple of years, said Snead. We shouldn't have to come home and fight for benefits.
Justin Morse, who is training to become a helicopter pilot at Aims Community College, said the school has barred him from flying any aircraft until the VA pays his tuition in full.
I might not be graduating, said Morse. I might receive an incomplete, not a passing grade.
Both Morse and Snead showed up at Denvers regional VA office in Lakewood, Colo. to claim emergency checks meant to tide them over until their benefits clear.
The money is meant to help veterans focus on their studies and put aside their financial difficulties until we can get their checks flowing to them, said Paul Sherbo, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sherbo said the VA has been overwhelmed with new applications since the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill went into effect, and the backlog has caused massive delays.
After weeks of complaints about the delays, Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki announced that the VA would issue emergency checks worth up to $3,000 to students waiting on Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits. The money has to be repaid once a students regular benefits kick in.
Some student veterans said they were grateful for the check, but added that, after a two-month delay, the money is not enough.
The fees are just getting higher and higher, said Snead. It's hard to complain about getting some money, but at the same time, it shouldn't have come to this.
The Denver regional VA office will continue to hand out emergency checks to those who have qualified for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill as needed. The office will open Saturday, Oct. 3, from 8:00 a.m. until noon and on Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Student veterans can also apply for the checks on the VAs government website.
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