Veterans fight for benefits: What contributes to student veterans’ financial frusrations

Illustration by Tammy Huynh | The Signal Archives


Illustration by Tammy Huynh | The Signal
Illustration by Tammy Huynh | The Signal

In Georgia State, there is a little-known building where little-known people conduct little-known business. While that may describe most of our insular academic departments, I am in this instance referring to Georgia State’s Center for Military Outreach.

Echoing what was said in an earlier Signal article, “outreach” is a bit of a misnomer, as the center doesn’t so much reach out as just sort of exist at the periphery of the university.

In theory, the Military Outreach Center helps military veteran students acquire the benefits guaranteed them by the GI Bill. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is essentially the federal government’s guarantee to pay military veterans’ residential and educational fees in college, granted the veterans meet certain requirements.

As a buffer to the GI Bill, there is the Yellow Ribbon program, which seeks to cover costs the GI Bill does not.

The benefits these two programs promise are too logistical to get into in a short column; it’s best an interested reader find out about the benefits for themselves by doing their own research.

What I can talk about are the grievances expressed in our earlier article, as well as what I think contributes to those grievances.

It would seem that the Military Outreach Center doesn’t quite live up to its name, as the article said. It doesn’t seem to be completely ineffective, but the Student Veterans Administration seems to help with GI Bill-related logistics much better.

The Signal article I keep referring to describes how Georgia State runs its paperwork through the VA, and how the VA often drops the ball on veterans’ benefits itself. Repeated throughout the article is the sentiment that if you keep up with your paperwork, you’ll be able to keep up with your benefits. But, of course, it’s not the veteran’s responsibility to remind the VA to do their job.

There is, however, always a bigger fish. The problem seems to come more from the top levels of government and administration, as constant bureaucracy continually finds the rate of veterans’ benefits negotiable, just as it does on the level of the VA.

These are only two circumstances, but they illustrate the same thing: veterans are often shafted at even the highest institutional levels–it’s not just Georgia State’s problem.

It’s easy to point fingers at the show-runners and the bureaucrats, but, more often than not, they’re trying just as hard to sort things out. It wasn’t the fault of the Veterans’ Affairs chairman (Bernie Sanders, incidentally) that allowed the modification to the GI Bill drop, it was Congress collectively deciding there were more important things to worry about.

We’re right to hold Congress and the VA accountable, but it does nothing for our understanding of why they’re holding out on veterans. I claim the real problem is the way our culture disregards veterans in general.

There is an undeniable trend in this country to put the needs of veterans on the backburner, often to disastrous consequences. One only needs conjure mental images of Vietnam veterans, broke and insane, to see the results of such disregard.

I have no solution to these problems, but my minor contribution (and I hope it’s a helpful one) is to portray the problem for students not as a top-down conflict between administrators and veterans, but as a series of issues arising from various levels of such administration, and the inefficacy of the ways they relate to one another, both in a bureaucratic sense and a cultural sense.

Blaming the bureaucracies on various levels (VA, Senate), we should collectively work against our culture’s passive attitude towards veterans which allow these bureaucracies to disregard veterans’ needs. Only then will there be a sense of cohesion among the institutions created to benefit veterans.