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Vets may finally get money

BY GRACE SAVIDES | JANUARY 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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Veterans awaiting financial aid for the past several months may finally receive the benefits they were promised.

The Department of Veteran Affairs announced recently they are now prepared to process enrollments for the Post-9/11 GI Bill for the spring in a timely manner.

But one UI official isn’t too optimistic.

Herald “Skip” Kempnich, who handles all of the UI student veterans’ requests for financial aid, said things are better than they were last fall, but he is still reserving judgment.

At the beginning of the fall semester, 76 UI veterans were still waiting for their aid from the bill to arrive.

Kempnich, who has worked with the GI Bill since 1981, said the Post-9/11 GI Bill has created one of the biggest messes of any new GI Bill program.

“I’ve never seen a new program go this bad,” Kempnich said.

Veteran Affairs officials acknowledged that some students underwent “financial hardships” as a result.

In the end, 100 UI students will receive aid from the bill, Kempnich said.

When students first experienced problems last fall, the university allowed those awaiting funds to take out short-term loans from financial aid and eliminated late penalties incurred on their U-bills.

“We don’t lose veterans here for financial reasons,” Kempnich said.

Drew Hjelm, the president of the UI Veterans Association, said the university has been understanding and helpful with students who didn’t received their GI Bill payments last semester.

Whether the GI Bill has been fixed will soon be apparent for Scott Lyon, a veteran currently enrolled in the UI College of Law.

After serving as a marine from 2000 to 2005, he received aid for his undergraduate education under the Montgomery GI Bill, with which he experienced no problems.

“It was a huge help,” Lyon said.

Now, he is among the approximately 103,000 veterans nationwide who enrolled for aid from the Post-9/11 GI Bill this spring. As of yet, he has not received any money, but he said this may be normal.

“So far, I don’t know if it’s going to be a problem,” he said. “I’ll just have to wait and see.”

Of the more than 100,000 spring enrollments for the bill, Veterans Affairs has only processed around 72,000.


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