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2012 September 17 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Error Delays Benefits for Ohio Student Veterans

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s governor, higher education chief and veterans’ services director are asking colleges and universities not to penalize student veterans whose financial benefits through the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill may be delayed after a records problem.

Some eligibility certifications were temporarily lost while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was transferring electronic records between offices, state officials said. The problem affected records for Ohio and West Virginia veterans whose enrollments were received between July 24 and Aug. 9, and it could delay payments used for housing and educational costs, they said.

“Technical problems the federal government is currently facing puts these young men and women in the unenviable position where they don’t know how they’ll pay for college, buy books, or keep a roof over their heads,” Gov. John Kasich said in a statement. “It’s my hope that Ohio’s colleges and universities show flexibility and patience so we can ensure the education of our student veterans isn’t disrupted.”

Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro and Col. Thomas Moe, who leads the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, asked the college and university presidents to work to identify which student veterans might be affected at each school and to let them continue taking classes despite the delay in funding.

The board isn’t sure how many student veterans might be affected. It has asked each institution to provide it with an estimate.

Ohio State University, the state’s largest campus, estimates more than 160 of its nearly 2,000 student veterans are affected by the glitch, said Wayne Carlson, OSU vice provost and dean for undergraduate education. A policy put in place earlier this year will help ensure they’re not dropped from classes or assessed late fees pending approval of GI Bill benefits, he said.

The school also is offering affected student veterans temporary, no-interest loans to help them pay for books and housing.

“I’m hoping all the other schools have the same kinds of approaches,” Carlson said. “We want to honor our veterans, and as students, they have special needs, and we want to meet those.”

Bowling Green State University believes most of its 284 student veterans are affected and may not see their benefits for weeks or months, President Mary Ellen Mazey said in a letter to Kasich. In the meantime, the school is offering loans to cover affected students’ housing allowances and book stipends.

“While we believe this is the right thing to do, it is clearly a short-term, stopgap measure,” she wrote.

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