By David Jenkins
It was roughly 1995 when I decided to go back to school. I was tired of breaking my back in construction and doing odd jobs. I wanted to get educated and put it to use as in a career. I started off at the community college taking basic classes that I needed to get into a university. After a couple of years at the community college (and still working in construction) I applied to transfer to two places; a California State school and a University of California school. The California state school told me that I needed to take more classes in a specific area prior to them admitting me. The University of California School said they were ready to accept me as I stood. I bounced this information off my brother-in-laws, one of whom was venturing along a similar path but was a bit older. The general consensus was that I should go with my gut so I was UC bound. Not the most prestigious school, but I liked the small feel of it and to this day am thankful that I went there.
After I was admitted I accessed my GI bill which if my calculations were correct, would pay for my bachelor’s degree in full. I continued to work and my spouse was working full time in sales so we were able to provide for ourselves in terms of living life. There was a veteran liaison on campus and she was helpful with setting up things and such. The problem was based both on the school and the VA. The school had a program especially for veterans in terms of paying tuition and such. The problem was my checks would come at certain times that conflicted with when my tuition payments were due. This would not have been too much of a problem, but the school imposed a substantial fine every time my payment was late (if I recall it was around $50) and because of my payment timeframes from the VA, I was always late. I worked with my liaison and pushed her to negotiate with the school for I could not afford hundreds of dollars worth of fines. This did not work as I ended up talking with an account person every time I paid my tuition and fortunately, she was nice enough to reverse the late charge almost every time. This went on until I graduated with a bachelor’s degree couple of years later.
My next venture with the GI Bill was much less stressful. I entered a private university and the setup of tuition/GI bill payments was painless and easy. I filled out forms for the school as well as the federal government and things went right into play without lapses or late payments. It seemed like the public university was more problematic to work with due to the bureaucracy as opposed to the private university that was much less stringent. The GI Bill paid for the majority of my master’s degree. I did take out a small federal subsidized loan that is currently in deferment due to my continued efforts at my doctoral degree. All of this was going on when 9/11 happened and I graduated with a master’s shortly after it. There was no Post 9/11 GI Bill yet.
Upon reflection of the GI Bill of yesterday and comparison of the current one, it seems that things have gotten much more complicated. I recently accessed the Post 9/11 GI Bill and glanced at some of the information. I also have read some stories from prior service members who have noted that the GI Bill is sticky and that the VA was not very “service member friendly” with regards to timely offerings of benefits. I mostly equate this to the fact that again one is dealing with an enormous bureaucracy that may be contributing very much to the sluggishness of the situation. The Veterans Administration (VA) employs hundreds of thousands of people and there are similar numbers of service members attempting to access their well earned and deserved military benefits. It is my hope that the VA will continue to work on bettering themselves in this area as the fighting men and women of our country continue to flow back into the higher educational system.
Post 9/11 GI Bill
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