I used part of my Montgomery GI Bill to finish my undergraduate degree when I separated from the Air Force. By the time I was ready for graduate school, the Post-9/11 GI Bill had started and I quickly converted to the new program and enrolled at American University in Washington, D.C.  During the last year of my graduate program, I started working for VA and learned that there are many moving parts behind the scenes each semester as tens of thousands of students head back to school on the GI Bill. I also learned a few tips I’d like to pass on to you on how to help get your claim processed quickly.

VA knows that every semester there will be a surge of GI Bill claims from Veterans and their family members. That is why VA has hired more than 700 new employees to process GI Bill claims. Also, a couple weeks prior to the start of every semester, we ramp up our plan to process education claims as quickly as possible.

Behind the scenes we are planning how to best communicate with you so every GI Bill recipient feels informed and has a chance to engage with us. In fact, we are conducting a twitter chat on Thursday, September 13, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. EST. You can Tweet your questions using the hash tag #askVBA and we will connect with you through the @VAVetBenefits Twitter account. We are also regularly updating our Facebook pages with information, tips and resources.

We are also preparing our employees to ensure we process every claim with the care it deserves. Our education claims processors are working overtime so you don’t have to wait longer than necessary. Each processor is sacrificing personal time because they understand you sacrificed for us by serving. We’ve updated staffing plans and targeted how we divide claims between offices so no Regional Processing Office gets overwhelmed with the sudden influx. We’ve pulled employees from other departments to work education claims and help lower processing times.

Yet despite our efforts, some Veterans and family members may still wait for payment. Last fall, it took us an average of 23 days to process a GI Bill claim and while we adjust our methods based on lessons learned from prior semesters, the bottom line is every semester more and more Veterans are taking advantage of this benefit. While that is good news and it’s exactly how we want it, it also means individual delays are likely.

There are a few things you can do to help your claim get processed:

1) Connect with your school’s Veterans certifying official and encourage him or her to send us your enrollment paperwork as soon as possible. To help understand when you can expect payment, ask your counselor if the school waits until after the add/drop deadline before submitting Veterans’ paperwork, which is when VA will receive the majority of back to school claims; or if they submit the information as soon as your enrollment is complete.

2) Remember to update your school’s Veterans certifying official if you change your class enrollment, especially if you drop below full time. This can affect payment from VA and overpayment could be deducted from future awards.

3) Find out what benefits your school offers Veterans. My undergraduate institution allowed Veterans to defer their tuition until the end of the semester interest free. Many schools offer scholarships for Veterans, as do some private organizations. And many state Departments of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Service Organizations offer Veterans help with rent and bills if you get behind.

4) If you have confirmed that your school has returned your required paperwork and you still have additional questions about your payment, call: 1-888-GIBILL-1. We are experiencing high call volumes and you may need to schedule a call-back appointment. In the meantime, you can also find answers to frequently asked questions here.

Finally, enjoy the college experience, find other Veterans on campus and do your best to achieve all your academic goals – it’s well worth it.

Cat Trombley is a communications specialist with the Veterans Benefits Administration. Prior to working for VA, she was an assistant director at a the Veteran Service Organizations and represented Veterans before the Board of Veteran Appeals. She is also an Air Force Veteran.

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5 Comments

  1. william September 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Ebenefit can be better and more effective if vets could contact a human who they could work with. Via email or phone the 1-800-827-1000 number is a joke. The VA social workers, doctors, and other VA professional can’t get direct real time information about a vets claim or pension status. The VA claim and pension process should be two totally different process; disability claims should be handle at the VA medical center or hospital by a VA doctor at the same time he is written up his or her medical report on a vet through an automatic computerized system.

    The pension claims and students school claim should be handle by the VBA. I just think the whole organization of the VBA is organized and structure wrong. It is too big and cumbersome therefore that is why everything far as claims are handle so inefficiently.

  2. Rick September 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Now I see the problem with regular claims, pulling people to do school claims when there are so many waiting for disability claims….NICE

    • localhost September 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      Amen! Going on 21 months waiting and about to be homeless..

  3. Mark Chamberlain September 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Dear Mr. Chamberlain,
    Your appeal was received at the Board on January 14, 2012. The case is awaiting review be a Veterans Law Judge. The Board, as required by law, will consider the appeal according to its place on the docket.
    Docket order is determined by the date you filed your VA form 9. When the file arrives at the Board, the docket number is activated. The docket order reverts back to the VA form 9 date, not the date of arrival at the Board. You filed your VA Form-9 on March 8, 2011.
    Each Judge has a different set of files to review. All Advances on the Docket cases, court cases, remand cases and older cases will go before yours. Each day it changes as we get in more cases from the Regional Office with varying docket dates. We don’t have a time frame for each appeal. You are welcome to call our status line every so often to check on your appeal. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals status phone number is 202-565-5436.

    Diane, Congressional Liaison,
    Ombudsman
    Board of Veterans’ Appeals
    810 Vermont Avenue
    Washington DC, 20420
    To: BVA Ombudsman
    Subject: Re: Appeal status
    This is where I got my information from unless this report is wrong.
    Even if we take the 883 and take it from docket number and minus the 119 for VSO because I do not have one you will still get 219days.
    Which should put me in step 4 of the decision.

    DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
    Chairman, Board of Veterans’ Appeals
    Washington, DC 20420
    February 1, 2012
    The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
    Secretary of Veterans Affairs
    Department of Veterans Affairs
    810 Vermont Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20420
    Dear Mr. Secretary:
    I am pleased to present the Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Report of the Board of Veterans’
    Appeals (Board or BVA), for inclusion in your submission to Congress. Information on the activities of the Board during Fiscal Year 2011 and the projected activities of the Board for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013, as required by 38 U.S.C. § 7101(d)(1), are provided in Parts I and II.
    38 U.S.C. § 7101(d)(2)(D)
    The average length of time between filing the appeal and the Board’s disposition was 883 days.
    The following chart demonstrates the average time intervals for particular portions of the appeals process
    * This includes the Board’s cycle time of 119 days.
    Cycle time measures the time from when an appeal is physically received at the Board until a decision is reached, excluding the time the case is with a VSO representative for preparation of written argument.
    Notice of Disagreement Receipt to Statement of the Case AOJ 257 days.
    Done 883-257= 626
    Statement of the…

    • Mark Chamberlain September 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      This goes with the above
      Statement of the Case Issuance to Substantive Appeal Receipt Appellant 41 days.
      Done 626-41= 585 also – 119 as noted above no VSO = 466.
      Substantive Appeal Receipt to Certification of Appeal to BVA AOJ 585 days.
      Current place according to e-benefits with docket # based on date of form 9. 466-545= -79.
      Receipt of Certified Appeal to Issuance of BVA Decision* BVA 240 days.
      Should have only 161 days to go.
      Average Remand Time Factor AOJ 427 days. Have not reached this Judge has to make a decision yet.
      The following is a reply to my appeal case to the report to Congress for 2011 about how well they are doing. In the report if you look it up they receive 49,000 EST and complete about 47,000 EST a year. It also gives you a time frame for how long it should take if you do not send any more supporting documents in. Which form the reply I got is that they are over 2 Years behind and the report is not giving the actual time frame. As long as the VA. that is processing your claims can hold up your appeal it will put the numbers in their favor.

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