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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Just Scraping By

Living off borrowed money is getting old for veterans at UMB who feel that they earned a free education. The new 9/11 GI Bill was activated in August by executive order, but most veterans still haven’t gotten their money.

“We’re waiting on Buffalo to push things through. They’ve got a huge backlog right now,” said UMB’s Veterans Resource Coordinator, Augusto St. Silva.

Every single person who wanted the new GI Bill had to fill out a new application form, so the VA office in Buffalo that processes financial requests was swamped with applications when the bill took effect. St. Silva said that while the new form is almost exactly the same as it has been in the past, it is important that each person be considered individually to make sure people get the correct amount of money.

The staff at the Buffalo VA office, the headquarters for GI Bill approval, was not increased in preparation for the onslaught of applications. So approving eight years worth of applications may take well into next year. St. Silva described the process as a funnel.

“They have to go through each application. [Students are] using their old benefits now. When the new bill kicks in they will reimburse the difference,” he said.

But student veterans, like Nathan Mulligan, who are just starting school this year under the new program, are not getting any money at all.

“I’ve been living off my emergency check, and I had the people I was working for over the summer pay me in increments, but my money’s running out,” Mulligan said

In October the government issued $3000 emergency aid checks to veterans to help with living costs. The money was helpful, and combined with interim loans offered by UMB to pay for classes the veterans at UMB have been scraping by.

Getting in touch with the VA has been notoriously difficult for people wanting to know the status of their education benefits. Almost everyone who calls the VA offices in Buffalo during their business hours on any given day gets a message saying that the phone lines are overloaded, and to please try the call again later.

Veterans are left waiting for the VA to get around to calling them.

“I got a phone call from the VA asking if I got the relief money, and telling me that they’d be taking it out of my benefits. But I haven’t gotten any notifications about my benefits,” Mulligan said.

The bureaucratic hodgepodge of paperwork at the VA has been a source of aggravation for veterans for decades. So most veterans on campus are happy to be patient, and trust that their benefits will come through eventually.

“I asked the VA for some medical records a few months ago, and they told me that it would take them four months to find them. I just had this image of some guy going into a basement full of file cabinets and walking back and forth for four months looking for my record,” Mulligan said.

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010