By Debbie Gregory.
Lawmakers from California and Nevada introduced the Fair Access to Benefits for Student Veterans Act. If approved, this legislation will make it easier for Veteran students to access their benefits when they need them the most.
Since 2009, more than 1 million Veteran students have used the Post-9/11 GI Bill. During that time, Veterans, the VA and law makers have been able to create a learning curve for the program, correcting deficiencies with the program along the way. This process is on-going. As more Veterans use the program, and more schools and agencies become familiar with the process, increased opportunities to improve the benefit present themselves.
Currently, Veteran students apply for enrollment at their desired college or university, and once approved, they complete their enrollment for their education benefits with the VA. Once approved, and once their semester begins, the Veteran will then start to receive their monthly payments and stipend for books and supplies. But this can take several weeks. Between each term break of more than 30 days, the payments stop and start up again, once the next semester begins. This can also take up to a month before Veteran students get their benefits.
However, before each semester begins, there are expenditures that Veteran students are responsible for. Most professors contact their students with the required reading and text books for classes prior to the beginning of the term. Some professors even ask that some reading be done before the first class meeting. Waiting for VA benefits to buy books can be detrimental to a Veteran student’s grade, and they might not be able to afford the book without VA money.
Parking fees can be over $160 per term at some schools. And students need to purchase permits prior to the first day of the term. Waiting weeks for their first payment can put Veteran students, who often have families, in a financial bind.
Under the current law governing Veteran education benefits, this advanced payment comes in lieu of the payment for the following month. While filling the need at the moment, this can potentially leave Veterans in a bind when they should be receiving their regular payment.
The Fair Access to Benefits for Student Veterans would change the process so that advance payments granted to Veteran students will be charged against the final month of education assistance payments that the Veteran is eligible for. This minor alteration will allow Veterans to access their education assistance and not put themselves in a financial bind– as the benefits are intended to do.