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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

GI Bill Delays Hamper Education Payments

From the Philadelphia Enquirer:

A surge in veterans using the GI Bill to pay for college is increasing delays for students in getting their money from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For students attending colleges in the central United States, it has been taking nearly eight weeks on average for a first-time applicant to start receiving VA college funds. That is more than twice as long as it it supposed to take, according to the VA's standards.

"For some of these VA guys, that's all they live on when they're in school," said Rowdy Pyle, financial aid counselor at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Mo., where about 30 students have raised concerns about delays. "They're getting a little worried when they hear they may not get their check until sometime in March."

This week the VA began taking what it called "extraordinary measures" to reduce the backlog at its St. Louis claims-processing center, including diverting all incoming calls to an office in Oklahoma for two weeks to free 20 employees to process claims. St. Louis is the slowest of the VA's four education claims-processing centers. ...

Nationwide, more than 118,000 VA education claims were waiting to be processed as of Feb. 4. Students in 16 central states have been hit with the greatest delays because of an influx of incoming claims and backlogs at the St. Louis Regional Processing Center.

Having problems, too? Contact your school's benefits counselor or the VA at 1-800-827-1000. Information and applications.

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