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Veterans and schools expecting new GI Bill payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs face a 30-day delay in getting paid — and the delays could get longer if a flood of claims arrives in the next few weeks.
Keith Wilson, VA's education service chief who is responsible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the department's other education benefits programs, said Friday said about 136,000 service members, veterans or family members of service members have been certified as eligible for the new GI Bill benefits but that payments won't go out until final enrollment information is received from schools.
About 8,000 of the eligibility claims are for active-duty members seeking to transfer benefits to their spouses or children, he said.
So far, processing time is about 30 days, a little longer than VA's goal of 24 days. But completing claims even in 30 days may prove difficult if the VA is swamped with claims in early September as the result of a rush of fall enrollments, Wilson said.
"We have our hands full," he said. "The fall enrollment period always is a challenge for us."
VA hired 750 new workers specifically to handle Post-9/11 GI Bill claims. In addition, it tried to get a jump on the expected wave of applicants by accepting requests for pre-certification of eligibility before the official Aug. 1 launch date of the program.
The first checks for tuition and fees to schools and the first checks for book allowances to eligible veterans will be paid as soon as VA processes enrollment information, Wilson said. Checks for living stipends for eligible students will be paid on the first day of the month following enrollment, he said.
Wilson said VA anticipates that 328,000 people will use the Post-9/11 GI Bill this fall and a total of 460,000 people will use the new benefits plan this year.
Patrick Campbell of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said the biggest complaint he has heard about the new GI Bill is from veterans who want their book and living stipends in their hands right away, and were unaware that the book allowance, a maximum of $1,000 a year, is not paid until VA first verifies enrollment and that the monthly living allowance, tied to the military housing allowance for the location of the campus, is paid at the end of the month, not the beginning.
Information about the Post-9/11 GI Bill is available at VA's http://www.gibill.va.gov">GI Bill Web site.