Even before the semester starts, I’m sure my Veterans office on campus is tired of me. I often call or email questions about my enrollment, or if VA has paid my tuition bill. I double check to make sure submitted paperwork made it to the right office so there are no surprises later in the semester when I’m knee-deep in homework. I even double back with my Voc Rehab counselor a couple times a week to ensure there are no action items that need attention. And now, a few hours before my first class, I’m all set. Now my worries include essays and tests instead of absent housing payments and missing paperwork.

The best advice someone gave me at a VA clinic was always keep on top of your benefits and be your own advocate. It’s not fun and takes a lot of work, but preparation saves a lot of grief down the road. If you’re going to school this fall, save the number of your certifying official in your phone and keep their business card in a wallet or purse. Drop by and go through everything you need. Have they started to certify enrollment? Do they have your letter of eligibility? There’s a lot to take care of every semester and they’re there to help, but as I’ve discussed in the past, they’re often overworked and have varying degrees of accessibility to VA if they need assistance.

Still, issues might come up that require attention. The first place to start is your certifying official or anyone they designate on campus that can help. The GI Bill site has plenty of resources to answer common questions. If you have specific questions regarding housing payments or the book stipend that the certifying official might not be able to answer, the GI Bill hotline at 1-888-GIBILL-1 or the secure question page can also come in handy. I’ve called the line a few times and have been surprised to have my questions answered quickly.

Another semester has dawned, and with it a number of steps needed to get benefits in order. But just like in training, an ounce of sweat goes a long way to eliminate as many hassles as possible so you can focus on that degree.

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Published on Aug. 31, 2011

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  1. Wendi October 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    You can stay on top of you benefits all day long, as I have always done, but that does not guarantee that you school or the VA will follow through in a timely manner with correct paperwork on there end. If it is not one it is the other. I have been in school full-time for four semesters now, and there is always someone on either side getting something jacked up. Now, “Thank you Obama”, our benefits are getting screwed with again. I love how the government rewards lazy people, who have no care or concern for an education or future, and punishes those who work diligently for their rewards and benefits. If I didn’t have my head screwed on straight then I would not have been able to continue with school. Fortunately for me, after missing bill payments, accruing late charges and etc….., and despite my efforts to vigorously “stay on top of things”, I learned who my friends really were. If it were not for all the people, who have seen how hard I work and that these benefits are more often times a burden, helping me financially….then I would not make it through each semester. By the way…..I have finally reached my AS degree with a 4.0, honor student, transferring to a university with scholarships that do me no good financially “Thank you again Obama. Why don’t you think about educating all these people you are going to provide jobs for?”

  2. Frank October 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    There are some great comments going on about the break-pay cut issue. I respect everyone’s right to express their concerns and feelings. This comes down to principle and fairness. I am a veteran who also looks forward to my entitlement. What was wrong in this case is many of us were not told about the break pay change–but instead learned of the reduction while balancing a lifeline account. Worse yet, the school I attend is all over the world and continues to give me assignments to complete right after I complete one course–eventhough I have not even met with or signed the attendance roster for my new class yet. God forbid life happens and a student gets sick or a bad accident keeps them from attending one night of class (and they can’t sign in that evening)…I think the new break pay policy will ultimately prevent them from being paid for the entire week (not just the one or two days the person is not working on class assignments). If you are not working on class work it would be one thing, but when it can be proven that you are doing what you are supposed to then I feel exceptions need to be made.

  3. betty August 31, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    its also a great idea to set up your e-benefits account so you can track your bah and other benefit payments. as a certifying official who reserves no notice when these payments are issued, being able to have a student login to e-benefits would be a huge help.

  4. Jalica August 31, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Upon these actions, I learned a great deal how decisions are best suited to those who are connected, to those who do not have.

    Furthermore, as an Air Force widow very early, I learned that I would later go hungry if it weren’t for a comrade that took me in. Today, after GMAC took my home under false pretenses like other veterans, I received little help for the Banking Commission.

    I attend college because of subsidy. If I relied on my VA money, I would face more stress and complications just being alive on this southern ground. Money gives those who have power status to take more power. I speak my Peace, and earned my dollar, and kept my mouth tight lipped as those who went without ceased to exist! You ask why!

    Living under Hunger is as bad as being a slave to a system that lies!

  5. Jalica August 31, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    As long as I have served the guard after 30 years, I find the 9/11 was cut-off during the first move to Kuwait in May 1999. What is sad about 9/11, it wants to limit how much of what is given. As the widow, I could not use my GI Montgomery Bill because I dealt with four children and suicide plus, dealing with a child who tried the same, and added to that pulled extra duty to make ends meet. Sadder still, I was cut short on the 9/11 bill when I pulled title 10 duty prior and after for the 2003 year. All record but still dealing with the lack of responsibility with command poor decisions. It is not always the individual that is having to prove needs. People are chosen over those who need, over those who just want.

  6. Ginny August 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Great information-I believe that if you plan far enough ahead, the only real hang-up with this 9-11 bill is that the school official has to do their job! I encountered problems with the University I am attending, but called his boss and got the results I needed! So far, I am extremely pleased with the customer service the VA has provided me when I called for questions, and with the fact that I get to pursue my Masters, pain in full by the VA. THANK YOU!!

  7. James August 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    My comment is in reference to the cut in BAH during the break between terms, mine having been for one month and not receiving BAH payments for that period leaves me nothing to pay my rent for the month of September having only receive payment for 3 days of Aug. in the amount of 40.00 yet, we are expected to keep grades up and have no worries, and being a full time student, resuming classes in September behind in rent and no other funds is expected to remain focused on my studies.
    I will be behind in my rent because of this cut, in addition will not see a BAH payment until October for the month of September, did Congress take any of these things into consideration when they decided to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game? I think NOT…How about we talk about how this has created more harm than good!!!

    • Greg August 31, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      I’m in the same boat my friend. Isnt the whole point of the GI Bill to make it easier on the veteran to attend school and alleviate some of the financial stress of getting an education? When the chapter 33 was introduced I was excited that I might actually be able to attend school full time and not have to worry about how I’m going to live once school is over, but stopping the break pay has not only put me behind in my bills, but it has also introduced a great deal of shame at at being behind and the added stress of knowing that I will most likely be evicted come next break. I hope the support system for homeless vets is better than that of vets trying to succeed in life by getting an education

      • Curtis August 31, 2011 at 11:04 pm

        Hey guys I can totally relate to what you are experiencing. I am struggling with bills as well because of the break cuts. In order to graduate with in 36 months of the benefits I must take no less than 15 credits (5 classes) per semester. Taking 15 or more credits gives me no to very little time for work. Therefore, the decision not to pay veterans for breaks significantly impacts my ability to pay bills (and I don’t have that much bills).

        • Will September 1, 2011 at 12:01 am

          Are you guys actually Vets? Did you not learn financial responsibility when you served?

          Did you even bother to read the conditions of the GI Bill beforehand?

          Many of the problems I see online are people who 1) did not bother to read the GI Bill website or 2) have very poor financial planning skills and are complaining about not being able to pay for rent over the summer and winter breaks.

          How about this — BUDGET YOUR MONEY!!!

          • fritz September 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm

            Yes we are veterans! How can we budget when there is no money to budget? I am a veteran and I am taking classes that needs a lot of studying like (engineering) and I will not risk my school from getting failed from my classes just to get an extra income. That is why there is 911 G.I. Bill to support us to get a better job after we graduate. I came back to school after 10 years and it is not easy to keep up since I am rusty and with so many projects and requirements to deal with in able to pass the class. Who is going to hire as for a two week or three week job? even McDonald’s will not hire anyone for a two week or a three week temporary job. Is this how they repay us after we served and made sacrifices to our country? I am a veteran and I am still in the reserve and serving our country!

          • John September 2, 2011 at 7:31 pm

            I am a United States Marine Corps Combat Veteran and I also have recently run in the same situation. Will, it is very difficult to budget your money when the funds that you are receive changes from month to month. In fact that makes it nearly impossible to budget. Congress has changed the rules to this bill more than ten times in the past year and a half that I have been receiving it. Changing the rules to the game when your in the middle of playing it makes is just unfair…
            Will, I don’t think your even trying to understand the situation we are in, and you have taken for granted the freedom that we veterans have provided for you.

          • Wendi October 7, 2011 at 9:36 pm

            WOW Will,
            Do you think we don’t budget our money? Seriously? Do you think we are not smart enough to realize that we need to be prepared for anything? How much information do you think the GI BILL website offers you on certain issues? Poor financial planning? I’d slap you in the face, and let the baby in my stomach kick you in the balls if you were standing in front of me right now. You are either 1.) not a soldier on benefits 2.) a silver spoon fed mommas boy with a ninny still in his mouth or 3.) not a soldier on benefits going to school full-time, with 3 kids, paying bills, working, and can still have a 4.0 GPA. The fact of the matter is the system is getting rocked, and everyone else along with it. You can not budget money that isn’t there, with information you are not getting, by people who “don’t know” anyways, and get information off a website that wraps and empty box. If the GOVT wants to work a system a certain way, they first need to be sure it works.

    • Ki Ki August 31, 2011 at 9:23 pm

      How about getting a job to cover all of those expenses. You shouldn’t ever put all your eggs in one basket. I was a veteran going to school full time and working two jobs so I know where you’re coming from. Don’t expect Uncle Sam to always take care of everything for you. You have to be “proactive” not “reactive”.

      • Wendi October 7, 2011 at 9:25 pm

        how old are you? Do you have kids? Bills? What kind of grades are you willing to make? Do you have health insurance because kids can’t go without it? I could go on.

    • rewinn September 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      May I suggest you contact your Congresscritter about this?
      It may be too late to help you, personally, on this but others will have the same problem. You may be able to get the ball rolling to patch this hole in the program. And, who knows, sometimes federal representatives can help you locate transitional assistance. (p.s. make sure you’re registered to vote! A positive attitude and the franchise are more powerful than either one alone!)

Comments are closed.

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