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Calling the GI Bill hotline? Good luck with that

90% of the calls placed to the hotline to ask about benefits or check on claims don't get through.

By Karen Datko Jan 27, 2010 4:19PM

Providing education benefits to veterans who’ve served in places like Afghanistan and Iraq is a wonderful thing. Much back-patting ensued when President Bush signed the Post-9/11 GI Bill into law.

 

But guess what: When veterans place a call to the VA’s GI Bill hotline to learn more about the benefits or check on claims, most of their calls don’t get through. The Army Times reports:

VA officials acknowledged almost 90% of calls to the Muskogee, Okla., center never connected between October and December. They either got a busy signal or a message that the call could not be completed. For those who did get through, about 30% of the calls were terminated before their question was answered, either because the caller hung up or was disconnected.

What is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' explanation for this travesty?

  • Too many calls. About 3.5 million calls were placed in October through December.
  • Too few employees. The call center is closed on Thursdays and Fridays so that employees can help process a backlog of claims. (The VA is developing a computer program that can process simple applications.)
  • The phone system doesn’t operate very well.

“It is ridiculous that veterans aren’t able to get the answers they need,” the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said in a statement.

There is an online site to find answers to questions. But if you are using Internet Explorer 8.0, it doesn’t work well either. The VA says it’s also working on that problem.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides help with tuition and other education and living expenses to veterans who served at least 90 days of active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. But so far, delays have plagued the entire process. Emergency checks were sent in September to help some of the students who had enrolled for a fall semester.

 

“The combination of the high volume of veterans who applied for benefits with an insufficient number of staff members in the veterans office resulted in many students from around the country still waiting to receive their funds after the Oct. 23 tuition deadline,” The Daily Texan said.

 

Many times, money that was promised never came. Allen Grundy at the Veteran Services Office at the University of Houston shared his observations with KHOU:

He said that he knew of some vets who had depended on that $1,500-a-month living expense check to pay the rent and when it didn’t come, some of them were living out of their cars. "We've had some real stories here. At some points, I had to call some landlords, make some arrangements for some of the students," said Grundy.

What do you think? Is this a national embarrassment?

 

Related reading:

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