GI Bill Orientation

Welcome to GI Bill orientation for Fall 2010. In this orientation we will explain how to successfully navigate the Post-9/11 GI Bill, including when you can expect to be paid, how much that check should be for and what you can expect to see coming down the pipe this Fall. Please remember that answers to any of your questions we don’t cover here can be found at www.newgibill.org.

When can I expect to get paid?

The VA cannot issue your GI Bill benefits until they receive your completed paperwork, which includes your GI Bill application (VA Form 1990 or online through VONAPP) and your school’s certification of enrollment. For your convenience, we have a handy checklist for you to follow to ensure all your “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed (http://www.newgibill.org/getting_started). Follow this checklist and you should be paid as soon as possible.

For those of you who started using the new GI Bill last year, the VA has increased GI Bill claims processing time by nearly 700%. While you may not have to wait all semester to receive your benefits like last year, the VA claims backlog remains at over 120,000.—higher than any other year on record, except last year.

This sizable backlog means student veterans should be prepared to wait up to several months for their GI Bill claims to process. Hopefully, the VA will get it right this time, but like last year, don’t hold your breath. As always, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Lastly, remember that even if the VA transformed into FedEx and could receive and process your claim the same day, the earliest you can be paid for your living allowance is at the end of your first month of school. For example, if you start classes on September 14th, you will not get your first living allowance check until October 1st.

How much money will I be receiving?

Since the new GI Bill pays different rates based on where you attend school, please check out our easy-to-use GI Bill benefits calculator (http://www.newgibill.org/calculator). No other GI Bill benefits calculator compares to the one at newgibill.org.

A few things to keep in mind:

1. Living allowances are usually prorated the first and last month of classes: Unless you start school on the first day of the month, your living allowance will be prorated for that month. For example, if you start school on September 15th, you will only receive 50% of your normal living allowance check on October 1st.

2. New BAH Rates are now in effect: After 9 months, the VA finally upgraded their system so that you will receive the proper BAH rate for 2010 starting in October. For those of you who are owed back pay for the higher BAH rates from January-August, the VA may or may not miss their August deadline to issue those back payments. IAVA continues to pressure the VA to pay the money they owe veterans because the VA is quick to collect when a veteran owes money.

3. Tuition/Fees rates are still pending: Despite repeated assurances that the new tuition/fees rates will be published “soon,” the VA is now almost a month late. This means that some schools do not know what they will receive for tuition and may require you to pay out of pocket. Once the new tuition/fees chart is published the VA will issue checks to the schools under the new rates.

What else do I need to know?

Accessing your GI Bill benefits online: If all goes according to plan, the VA should launch an online portal for you to track your GI Bill benefits by the end of the year—still a big “if”. The portal will allow you to view the status of your application, confirm whether your school has certified your enrollment to the VA, and explain the purpose of those random checks you receive in your bank account. For those of you who remember the WAVES system, this will be the new and improved version. The online portal is the last phase of the VA’s “long-term solution” to automate the processing of new GI bill benefits; therefore, I would not be surprised if the implementation date is pushed back until they catch up with the other features.

Yellow Ribbon Program: More than 1,100 schools have signed on to be Yellow Ribbon participants, which is about 1 out of every college/university in the country. The Post-9/11 GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program helps student veterans pay for more expensive private schools and colleges by providing a matching scholarship. If a school is more expensive then the public state tuition in your state, every dollar the school gives you under the Yellow Ribbon Program will be matched by the VA up to the full cost of your education. The VA launched a special outreach effort to recruit schools to the Yellow Ribbon Program earlier this year and that effort will continue into next year.

NASCAR Fans: As part of a larger outreach effort to educate veterans about their education benefits, the Post-9/11 GI Bill was actually a presenting sponsor of the NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the Richmond International Raceway September 10-11. The VA also sponsored the number 71 car which raced on September 11th.

Telling your GI Bill story: The best way for veterans to understand how the Post-9/11 GI Bill will affect their lives is to hear stories from other veterans who make the best use of the benefit. The VA has launched a new series about the new GI Bill called “My Story.” These segments are well put together and if you have a free minute or two I encourage you to watch one. The VA is also looking for new “inspiring stories” to share. If you are interested in sharing your story you can email the VA at post911.gibill.vbaco@va.gov. Make sure to include your full name, email address, and a few sentences about why you think you’d make a good candidate and why you would like to participate. Please don’t send them a bunch of emails complaining about the new GI Bill, you can send those to us at NGIB@iava.org and we will do what we can to help you.