GI Benefits Checks Could Arrive After Tuition Payments Are Due

August 18, 2009

Some veterans planning to pay for college this fall with Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits could be out of luck, says a report from Nextgov, which is published by the National Journal.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been overwhelmed by claims for educational benefits, creating a large backlog, says the report, which is based on an interview with an anonymous Congressional source. The department might not be able to process some veterans' applications for tuition and fees payments by the time the veterans' classes start this month, according to the report.

Officials at the department did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Chronicle.

As of Monday, the department had yet to process 211,251 educational-benefits claims, up from 191,388 last week, according to a workload chart posted on the department's Web site. Some colleges are already making arrangements to accommodate veterans who could be still waiting for their educational-benefits checks on the day tuition payments are due.

"We don't want students worrying about money when they should be worrying about studying," said Nicholas T. Laureys, an assistant in the office of the registrar at the University of Maryland at College Park. He said his office was working with the bursar's office to identify veterans who owed the university money but were still waiting for their educational-benefits checks to arrive.

The university will make tuition and fees payments for those veterans until they receive their checks, Mr. Laureys said. But the university will not make students' housing payments, meaning that veterans waiting for housing funds provided through the expanded GI Bill could be forced to pay out of pocket or to borrow money, he added.

The expanded GI Bill, signed into law last year by President George W. Bush, pays for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to attend in-state public colleges at no cost to them. They can also apply the funds toward the cost of an out-of-state or private college.

Keith M. Wilson, education-service director at the Department of Veterans Affairs, told The Chronicle last month that he expected about 200,000 veterans to pay for college this fall with Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.