AP NEWS

Backlog leaves some Wichita State veterans without benefits

November 5, 2018

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More than 100 student veterans at Wichita State University haven’t received GI Bill benefits because of a paperwork backlog, leading some students to drop courses or withdraw from the school.

The delayed payments are the result of understaffing at the university’s Military and Veteran Student Center, the Wichita Eagle reported.

Wichita State’s Student Government Association issued a resolution last week saying delayed benefits have created “severe financial crisis” for some students.

“We know a lot has to do with the (Department of Veterans Affairs), but the VA can only do so much,” said Ciaban Peterson, president of the university’s Student Veterans Organization. “This is an ongoing problem, and the university needs to dedicate more people to fix the bottleneck.”

The resolution, which was co-authored by Peterson, said that the Department of Veterans Affairs recommends universities have a “school certifying official” for every 200 student veterans. The officials are responsible for certifying enrolled student veterans so they can receive VA education benefits, such as tuition and living expenses.

Wichita State University has 913 students who are veterans, active duty military or dependents who could be eligible for education benefits, according to Deanna Carrithers, director of operations in the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

She said the backlog isn’t “a matter of negligence” and that the university recently hired additional staff to process paperwork.

“We have new certifying officials coming on board that will have the adequate training, and . . . we will be more than staffed — beyond what we’re required to do — to ensure that this never occurs again,” Carrithers said.

The university can also issue advances to affected students so they can pay for tuition, books and other expenses, she added.

Carrithers said the university is also considering online tools and other strategies to expedite the process of filing and certifying benefits.

“We don’t want there to be, at any point, someone who drops out of school because of financial reasons,” she said.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com