Congresswoman Chellie Pingree today praised the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for quickly responding to the needs of student veterans by providing emergency checks under the new G.I. Bill. Thousands of veterans who applied for educational benefits under the program have not yet received their payments due to delayed processing and bureaucracy. These emergency checks will help them make payments towards books and housing.
"No veteran should have to dip into their savings or postpone buying books for class because of outdated technology and backed-up claims," Pingree said. "I'm very glad that the VA has acted swiftly to remedy this problem and to ensure that our brave veterans have the resources they need to take full advantage of the new G.I. Bill college benefits they were promised. I hope that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Maine will take advantage of this program."
The checks for up to $3,000 will be distributed to eligible students at VA regional offices across the country starting today. In Maine, the regional office is at the Togus Veterans Center. A special processing location has been set up in Building 248. The center is open today until 4:30, tomorrow (Saturday) from 8:00-noon and all next week. Veterans can also apply online at the VA website at www.va.gov. Online applications will be processed within three days and checks will then be mailed to veterans. Applications made in person at Togus can be processed immediately.
Students need a photo ID, a course schedule and a certificate of eligibility to request payment of their housing and book allowance.
This money will be deducted from future payments, which are expected to arrive on the normal schedule -- the beginning of the month following the period for which they are being reimbursed.
Last year, Congress enacted the new G.I. Bill to restore the promise of a full, four-year college education for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Qualified veterans were able to apply for the new college benefits beginning in May of this year, and started receiving tuition benefits in August, along with housing and book stipends which are paid retroactively. Almost 300,000 claims have been submitted for the program.
"I am very proud of the new G.I. Bill and the opportunities it offers to our brave veterans and their families ensuring that they are part of our country's economic recovery," Pingree said. "This Congress made a pledge to leave no veteran behind, and we are working hard to ensure that the men and women who sacrificed so much for our country get the very best care and the services and benefits they've earned in a timely manner."
The VA is also working with Veteran Services Organizations to send representatives to campuses with large veteran student bodies and to help students access the regional offices.