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American Legion Applauds VA for Swift Action on Emergency GI Bill Payments

WASHINGTON (Oct. 6, 2009)The National Commander of The American Legion says The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Obama Administration should be commended  for the swift action taken to alleviate problems caused by overdue benefits payments to GI Bill students. 

“Help was on the way just a couple of days after news reports emerged about financial hardships to veterans and their families caused by late payments of newly granted educational benefits,” said National Commander Clarence E. Hill of The American Legion.  “The Legion's Washington office was in frequent contact with both The White House and the VA as the relief plan was formulated and I was very impressed with the swiftness of its implementation. This responsiveness really demonstrated sensitivity to our veterans and deserves praise.”

On Friday, September 25th, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, with guidance from The White House, ordered relief checks be issued to beneficiaries of the new Post 9/11 G.I. Bill who were suffering financial strains due to the late payment of their educational benefits. The checks were available a week later at VA Regional Offices across the country.  The American Legion assisted in the effort to help those students dealing with financial hardship due to the late payments by assisting in outreach of this emergency payment program and offering to provide transportation to these offices.  “Even though the late payments showed a certain lack of efficiency by the VA,” said Commander Hill, “the Department's willingness to do everything it could to rectify the problem, including enlisting our aid, is commendable.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that as of the end of the day Saturday, 14,301 checks had been issued in their Regional Offices and 10,605 requests for payments had been submitted online

The program has not been entirely free of complications, however, despite the VA's best efforts.  Apparently, some student veterans are experiencing difficulties in cashing their relief checks at a few banking institutions.  However, a spokesperson for the VA says that both U.S. Bank and Bank of America will cash the checks immediately and will not withhold funds until checks clear. 

That matter aside, The American Legion's national headquarters in Washington reports a significant number of unsolicited telephone calls from recipients of the emergency relief payments praising the Department of Veterans Affairs for its efforts on their behalf.

Post 9/11 G.I. Bill students can contact The American Legion directly for assistance with educational benefits questions and issues at 202-263-2995 or by sending an email to the vice president of the National Association of Veterans' Program Administrators at askvalerie@legion.org
The American Legion has created a website, www.mygibill.org, to aid veterans in understanding and applying for their benefits under the new Post 9/11 GI Bill.

With a current membership of 2.5-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

Media contact:  Craig Roberts,(202) 263-2982, Cell (202) 406-0887 or Joe March, (317) 630-1253, Cell (317) 748-1926.  A high resolution photo of Nat. Cmdr. Hill is available at www.legion.org. He is also available for electronic or print interviews.  

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