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Letter to The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, and The Honorable Arne Duncan, Secretary, Department of Education


Location: Washington, DC

Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Education Secretary Arne Duncan inviting them to work with him to find a solution to a budgetary oversight on the part of the University of Montana which has left 19 veterans currently enrolled in summer classes without promised tuition coverage. Rehberg is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the budget for the Department of Education.

"For these veterans, it doesn't matter where the system they depend on for their education broke down, the only thing that matters is that we get it fixed," said Rehberg. "In this case, I'm hopeful the VA and the Department of Education will help me find a workable solution so these vets aren't harmed by a bureaucratic error they had no control over. Surely, these men and women have given their country enough to warrant some special accommodation."

News reports indicate that the UM is unable to meet its obligation to 19 veterans because it failed to budget enough money to cover summer courses.

Rehberg's full letter is below.

Dear Secretary Shinseki and Secretary Duncan,

I'm writing of behalf of 19 veterans currently enrolled at the University of Montana (UM) who did not receive their promised tuition under the Yellow Ribbon Program.

As you know, the Yellow Ribbon Program is an important step we have taken toward fulfilling the promises we made to our veterans. This important program helps ensure that more veterans can complete their education and gain the qualifications they need to enter a 21st Century workforce. Specifically, the program gives institutions like UM the opportunity to enter into an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cover any extra tuition costs not covered by the GI Bill.

I sincerely appreciate the great work the VA has done for veterans with regard to this program over the years. Unfortunately, an agreement between the VA and UM under this program is at risk because a bookkeeping error that has left 19 veterans enrolled in summer courses high and dry.

Congress created the Yellow Ribbon Program to serve veterans. None of the 19 veterans currently using the benefits they earned is at fault for the apparent accounting error that left the University short of funds. It certainly seems unjust that they should be the ones who are punished for it.

Therefore, I respectfully request your assistance in finding a workable solution to this problem so that these 19 veterans can complete their coursework on time. For example, there may be funds that could be reallocated from Universities that may have underutilized their Yellow Ribbon funds to fill this gap in the short run. Or, perhaps, future funds designated for UM could be advanced as a stop-gap measure which the University could then back fill. I think you'll agree that the University, Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Education can work together to solve this problem.

I would truly appreciate your urgent attention to this matter. Please help me make every effort to ensure they receive the tuition assistance they were promised. Thank you for your consideration of this request, and please don't hesitate to contact my office if I can be of further assistance.


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