VA 1, AT2 0


Alright, a brief summary of important facts.

  • I served 5 years on active duty in the US Navy
  • I advanced to AT2 (pay grade E5)
  • I am currently drawing on my chapter 30 GI Bill benefits
  • I am currently attending Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College

Now that I’ve gotten the summary out-of-the-way, I can get to the point. I dropped from full-time at 13 credit hours, to 3/4 time  at 10 credit hours. On 22 Apr 2010, the VA calculated that I received an overpayment of about $1200, due to status change. My full-time benefits run about $1800 a month, which are now reduced to about $1300 a month. Unless payment/deduction arrangements are made before my next scheduled benefit deposit, I really shouldn’t have to explain the math, that will leave me with about $100 for the entire month of May. Just how is a full-time (well, technically 3/4 time) student, who isn’t working, supposed to get by on that?

Let’s see… my rental agreement has me paying $500 a month, by itself. I also will have to pay tuition this month, for the summer semester. Mind you, that’s not for 12+ credit hours during the summer. The VA considers 7 credit hours full-time during summer semester. So, tuition at AB Tech is currently about $50 per credit hour. That’s 2 or 3 classes, so assume 2 or 3 books. Let’s just use a nice, easy figure of about $300 for books/materials. So.. 500+350(approximate tuition for a full-time semester in the summer)+300 = 1150. Any disagreements? And if I’m not even sure if they will or will not take any action on the overpayment at this time (without arrangements, the VA will just deduct the total amount from my next benefit check). Anyone see a problem here?

And then, let’s not forget that about 6 months ago, approximately 90% of daily calls to the VA’s education benefits department went unanswered. Any veteran out there who’s used their benefits can probably tell you how clunky, un-supportive, and generally difficult the VA’s website (in this case, specifically http://www.gibill.va.gov/) is to use. And also, I do believe that most vets out there are as uncomfortable as I am sending personal information “blind.” Ie, sending forms with my social security number, and other identifying data that can be used for identity theft, to “whom it may concern” in “department [blah].” Especially when only a few years ago, the VA had well over 250,000 veteran records that were stolen. Not a very good track record for confidence.

So, if anyone out there ever thinks anything similar to “I just don’t get why veterans aren’t happy with their benefits,” I want you to take a very good look at available facts and information on just how the VA has performed its job. Also, if anyone ever thinks or says something similar to “I just don’t get why all the ‘crazy vets’ are ‘crazy,” think about how you would feel given the situation. But, if that’s not good enough for anyone, consider this: do you really want a person who has the training and skill to operate almost any firearm or other weaponized device (or knows HOW to weaponize something), getting angry enough to consider using that training outside of “established guidelines?” Because you know what? While I don’t agree that violence will solve any problems a veteran encounters with the VA, I sure as hell can’t blame anyone who finally hits that “boiling point.” This translates to “They’re wrong for going postal, but I’m gonna cheer ’em on anyway.”

Do we really need to let our veterans be subjected to this kind of treatment? As long as we do, expect to see “angry vet syndrome.” You can call it whatever you like, you could even borrow a phrase from Fight Club with “we are the people who watch you while you sleep…. Do not fuck with us.” Very solid point there, I might add. We did our service, made our sacrifices, lost pieces of ourselves, and in general “sold our soul” knowingly and willingly. All we want is to get what was promised, without hassle, without spending 5 hours trying to talk to a real-live human being at the VA. especially when that 5 hours ends with basically being told “yeah, you’ve got a major hassle coming up here.”

Is it too much to ask, to get our benefits without a hassle? To try to maximize the effectiveness of our 36 months of educational benefits, when in reality that won’t cover a standard bachelor’s degree? Yes, it’ll cover most of a four-year education, but not all of it. Okay, fine, I can handle that. So just give me my freakin’ $1800 a month and let me try to figure the rest out.

Okay, I’m ending the “angry vet” rant now.

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~ by Xandalis on 3 May, 2010.

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