Veteran students experience delays in GI Bill benefits

September 12, 2016

Rachel Librach

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     If you are a veteran and you haven’t yet received your GI Bill benefits, it may be due to delays at the St. Louis Veteran Center.

     Delays during this time of the year are not completely unexpected, according to Phillip Morris, program director of the Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs.

     A significant delay in veterans receiving their benefits occurred last fall as well.

     There are 1,450 students using Veterans Association benefits this year, according to Morris. This figure does not include active duty military, including ROTC students, who are directly connected to the military in some way.

     The application for a GI Bill has to be filled out by the student, delivered to the OVMSA and then sent to the St. Louis Veteran Center.

     Once the request has been processed by the VA regional office, the student can receive their military benefits.

     The St. Louis Veteran Center, the VA department for five states in its region, receives a large number of applications. Some veteran students go back to school in October, which causes a surge of applications at the office as well, according to Morris.

     If delays persist going into October, Morris said that, unfortunately, there is not a lot his office can do since the St. Louis VA department handles all the application processes.

     “Our office is caught up with reviewing all the benefit request forms. We submit those to St. Louis in a fairly timely manner, and, at that point, it is out of our hands,” he said.

     The process is on a first-come, first-served basis, said Morris.

     “We encourage people to submit their request for benefits as soon as they sign up for class. Students who enroll in October can call our office and request VA benefits, and we can get their application in early to St. Louis,” said Morris.

     While this presents a clear financial concern for some veterans, Morris advises students to prepare for this gap and seek out other means of financial aid.

     “I get it’s a problem now, and people are hurting to pay bills, but what we can do as university is supply short term loans, and encourage students to apply for financial aid,” Morris said.

     “We have had to do this in the past, and this office and the university can find some way to help (veterans) out.”

     Sophomore criminal justice major Christian Brinkworth said that while the ROTC program is a time commitment, it also provides great educational benefits.

     “This program is very competitive with scholarships based off of your GPA, but I feel like that’s an extra motivation to perform well in school. ROTC is a huge time commitment, but it’s definitely worth the training; it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

     If veterans are experiencing delays in receiving their GI Bills, Morris encouraged students to call his office at 255-3300 and the VA regional office at 314-531-5355.