Even before the semester starts, I’m sure my Veterans office on campus is tired of me. I often call or email questions about my enrollment, or if VA has paid my tuition bill. I double check to make sure submitted paperwork made it to the right office so there are no surprises later in the semester when I’m knee-deep in homework. I even double back with my Voc Rehab counselor a couple times a week to ensure there are no action items that need attention. And now, a few hours before my first class, I’m all set. Now my worries include essays and tests instead of absent housing payments and missing paperwork.
The best advice someone gave me at a VA clinic was always keep on top of your benefits and be your own advocate. It’s not fun and takes a lot of work, but preparation saves a lot of grief down the road. If you’re going to school this fall, save the number of your certifying official in your phone and keep their business card in a wallet or purse. Drop by and go through everything you need. Have they started to certify enrollment? Do they have your letter of eligibility? There’s a lot to take care of every semester and they’re there to help, but as I’ve discussed in the past, they’re often overworked and have varying degrees of accessibility to VA if they need assistance.
Still, issues might come up that require attention. The first place to start is your certifying official or anyone they designate on campus that can help. The GI Bill site has plenty of resources to answer common questions. If you have specific questions regarding housing payments or the book stipend that the certifying official might not be able to answer, the GI Bill hotline at 1-888-GIBILL-1 or the secure question page can also come in handy. I’ve called the line a few times and have been surprised to have my questions answered quickly.
Another semester has dawned, and with it a number of steps needed to get benefits in order. But just like in training, an ounce of sweat goes a long way to eliminate as many hassles as possible so you can focus on that degree.