Across the nation, veterans who applied for benefits under the GI Bill, which offers money for college expenses, have been told their payments are being delayed because of an overwhelming number of veterans going to college.
Although the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs has issued emergency checks for $3,000 to everyone on the GI Bill, several local veterans taking advantage of the program say they have not been told when or if they will be getting their full payments.
Although the Shenango Campus of Penn State University, Sharon, is letting GI Bill recipients continue to attend classes even if they can’t pay their tuition, local students on the program say it has created hardships.
A.J. Hoffman, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and started at Penn State-Shenango this semester, said that he doesn’t know if he can continue going to college if payments don’t resume.
“I had to take money out of my retirement account to pay for my books and rent,” he said. “I try to think positive, but if (payments don’t come through), there’s nothing anybody can do about it.”
Jesse Wozniak, an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq and also started at Penn State-Shenango this semester, said the lack of payments are an inconvenience now, but could cause him problems down the road if they don’t start coming.
“I had to buy books on my credit card,” he said. “And of course, interest is going to accrue on that.”
Wozniak, who is studying physical therapy and is going to have to go through an unpaid internship, said he was going to use GI Bill payments to take care of his bills.
“Right now I’m putting my best faith in the government,” he said.
A representative from Penn State-Shenango said they will continue to let veterans attend classes and register regardless of payment, as long as the VA has approved their grants.
Cathie Smith, a Mercer County Veteran’s Service officer, said her department did not have an exact figure for how many veterans in Mercer County take advantage of the GI Bill, but because of local servicemen deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan out of the Army Reserves and the National Guard, the number is higher than it’s ever been.