Today, IAVA member veteran and Columbia University student Marco Reininger delivered a powerful testimony on behalf of the quarter of a million students using the new GI Bill. He recounted how one student veteran waiting for his delayed GI Bill benefits “ate canned beans and sardines three meals a day for an entire semester, trying to scrape up gas money for his wife and children back home.” He asked, “How could [this student] possibly thrive at school when he was consumed with the responsibility of providing for his family?
With VA Education officials in the audience intently listening, Marco challenged the VA to develop a system for student veterans to track their own GI Bill benefits. “If I can never predict when the VA makes a payment to my school, it is difficult to account for what individual checks are covering in my tuition and fees. We need a mechanism that would allow me to track my GI Bill claim from the moment I file, to the day when it actually pays. I can track a book from an Amazon.com warehouse to my apartment, why can’t I get the same transparency from the VA?”
He also recommended adding a widget on the VA GI Bill home page that would read, “‘Now working on GI Bill claims from (fill in the date).’ This widget will give student vets some idea of where they are in the GI Bill queue. This is information we can count on and plan around.”
Marco also answered questions from the Committee advocating for the simplification of the tuition benefit and granting equal benefits for equal service by allowing Title 32 Active Guard Reservists (AGR) service count toward new GI Bill benefits. Marco was joined by Robert Madden from the American Legion who made a strong case for including valuable job training such as vocational schools, apprenticeships and On the Job Training (OJT) in the new GI Bill (another IAVA priority).
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