You’ve run the paperwork gauntlet, completed all the application and enrollment steps for your first semester as a Veteran student using your GI Bill® Benefits. Congratulations! You start the semester attentive at your school desk for every class and just wait for the money to rain down…Right?
Well not so fast. There are multiple personnel and departments involved from that very first step of applying for your VA Educational benefits to actually seeing the money in your student bursar account and bank account. The majority of the time, approval is quick and payments arrive on time. Before you start spending that money take the time to learn the process and know when and how to follow up. Our very own UCO VA School Certifying Officials (SCO) recently provided us with a few tips for Veterans to help track the GI Bill® benefit approval process. Keep reading so when you catch that amazing Amazon deal, you’ll know you can click the Add to cart button with money in the bank.
Read your VA snail mail correspondence:
Yes, sometimes the VA will send you dozens of letters and it seems half go straight to the round file. If you have applied for GI Bill® Benefits the VA will send you correspondence in the mail letting you know the status of your benefits. So make the trek out to your mailbox, open the letters, and read them. If you have questions have the letter with you when you stop by the institution’s office or call the nationwide phone number for GI Bill® questions at 888-GIBILL-1 (888-442-4551) between 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. Central Time, Monday-Friday .
Know your VA School Certifying Official (SCO)’s process:
The basic approval steps for your application are the same for all institutions. To get on time payment with the start of the first day, it’s best to start 6 weeks ahead of the semester start date. You can submit your enrollment form at any time, even after the semester has started. If you delay completing the process, your payment will also be delayed. Each institution will have a unique process to follow. If you are not sure who your SCO is, a quick check on the WEAMS Institution Search website will provide you with names, phone numbers, and address information for all VA School Certifying Officials. Click this link WEAMS Public to locate the SCO for your institution. Questions you might want to ask the SCO at the institution are; How do you notify students on the status of their GI Bill® Benefit application? Approximately how long should I wait before receiving a status update? What forms do I need to provide and what format? Who else at the university is required to sign or approve my application?
For Example at UCO, Veteran students receive emails from VA-Once letting them know the status of their application. Students are encouraged to check their spam folders since their email settings may be identifying the VA-Once email as spam. If a student does not receive the email within 3 weeks they are instructed to contact the SCOs located on campus in the Veteran Support Services offices.
Talk with the SCO EVERY semester:
Each semester will require the submission of paperwork for your benefit payments to begin on time. Depending on the flavor of your GI Bill® benefit program, the paperwork and steps may be different. Know what paperwork you will need to submit and the date you should have it completed for on time payments. It’s also a good time to check in and discover if the program you are receiving has changed and if new benefits are available.
For example at UCO, both Veteran and Dependent students receiving GI Bill® Benefits are required to submit the Veteran/Dependent Enrollment Information form every semester and email it to VetHERO@uco.edu. If you are a UCO student you can find the form and further instructions online at UCO Veteran Dependent Enrollment Form
Visit the VA official websites:
The educational benefit programs provided through the VA are very diverse and will differ based on your time in the service, when you served, and possibly your disability status. As a Veteran, you will have several options on how to utilize those benefits. Making a decision can feel like completing a giant puzzle with some key pieces missing. A great place to find current information is on the VA Education and Training website. You can visit this online by clicking this weblink VA GI Bill Website for more information.Take some time to learn about what options you have available. When you are ready visit with the institution’s SCO with questions. They are more than happy to assist and you will get more from your visit if you’ve done some research ahead of time.
As a participant in the STRIPES-VUB program our Outreach Specialists are more than happy to sit down with you one on one. We have computer resources and expertise ready to assist with researching your benefit options, locating your GI Bill® Benefit Eligibility letter, and navigating the approval process for your selected institution. To contact our office you can fill out the blog contact us form, email us at STRIPES-VUB@uco.edu, or call us at 405-974-3686 anytime.
What tips would you suggest for a fellow Veteran concerning timely payment of your GI Bill® benefits? Leave your comments below.