After enticing hundreds of thousands of veterans with new benefits, the new GI Bill is experiencing major problems. The Department of Veteran Affairs, which runs the GI benefits program, has delayed thousands of benefit checks, which is having a monumental effect on the livelihood of student-veterans nationwide.
The GI Bill allows veterans who have served in the American armed forces after Sept. 10, 2001, to attend college, with the government picking up the tab for tuition, books and housing.
More than 277,000 veterans applied for assistance through the bill, but as a result of antiquated technology and the sheer abundance of applicants, the government only has issued benefit checks to about 33,000 veterans. This simply is unacceptable.
Because of the government's backup, many veterans have had to pay for their education out of their own pockets, despite having every reason to believe it would be financed by the government. Several veterans quit secure jobs and even relocated their families after finding out about the bill, only to have to dig deep into their savings just to get by. Had they known the government wouldn't be paying for their first several months of tuition and housing, many veterans likely wouldn't have enrolled. This is a shame, but it's especially shameful the government misled its veterans in this way.
The department has stated it never intended to pay the benefit checks until about October or November, despite several veterans never being informed of this. This sounds like a hollow excuse. Why does the government think it wise to issue checks months after classes begin at most American colleges and universities? Is it not reasonable to expect the government to start paying for your education by the time you start paying rent and tuition?
Thankfully, many colleges and universities are deferring tuition bills for those veterans who have not yet received their checks from the government. We applaud those institutions that have deferred payment to those veterans still in waiting and hope they can continue to do so until the government gets its ducks in a row.
It's good to know our nation's educational institutions can show some compassion when our nation's government drops the ball.
We do realize that, realistically, backups and delays are to be expected in a process of this size and importance. The government has cited an out-of-date computer system as a significant reason why it is unable to calculate veteran benefits and respond to them quickly. It's the government's responsibility to fix this and update its software as soon as possible. Thousands of veterans are depending on these benefits, and the government needs to do everything it can to fix the problem, even if it means working around the clock.
Our nation's veterans deserve the highest respect. They have put their lives on the line for our nation, while our government isn't even able to cut them a check to help pay for school right away. Those who should be first in line for benefits are being ignored and abandoned in the red tape of government bureaucracy. There simply is no excuse for failing to support our nation's veterans, both morally and, in this case, financially. The behavior of our nation's government in this instance is nothing short of an embarrassment.
After all, if this is how our government treats our nation's finest, what does that say about how they treat everyone else?
THE STATE NEWS (East Lansing)