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Originally published September 3, 2009 at 12:19 AM | Page modified September 3, 2009 at 8:08 AM

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GI housing checks' backlog reported

Facing a rush of last-minute claims, the Department of Veterans Affairs has cut housing checks to tens of thousands of veterans returning to college under the newly expanded GI Bill but officials acknowledged several thousand may get their money later than expected.

The Associated Press

Facing a rush of last-minute claims, the Department of Veterans Affairs has cut housing checks to tens of thousands of veterans returning to college under the newly expanded GI Bill but officials acknowledged several thousand may get their money later than expected.

Tuesday was the first day many veterans were due their first monthly housing stipends, which range from less than $1,000 to upward of $2,500, depending on factors, including location.

Ryan Gallucci of the advocacy group AMVETS said he was pleased with the effort, considering the complexity of calculating awards and administering the new benefit.

About two-thirds of the 67,000 remaining unprocessed claims were submitted only in the last 30 days.

Claims are taking on average 28 days to be processed, and beneficiaries had been told to get them in at least a month ahead.

However, that leaves about 20,000 unprocessed claims that are more than 30 days old. Veterans groups said they'll continue to monitor the backlog and hold the department to its promise to be caught up by next month.

Congress passed the Post 9/11 GI Bill last year, offering veterans the most significant expansion of educational benefits since the original GI Bill in 1944.

The new benefits will exist alongside other continuing programs, such as the Montgomery GI Bill.

Altogether, the VA expects nearly 500,000 veterans to participate in the coming year.

Overall, the department has received 236,000 claims related to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and has completed action on 169,000.

Claims under the new bill are more complicated than under the old, in part because the government is essentially cutting three separate checks: one to colleges for tuition and fees, another directly to veterans (and in some cases their dependents) for housing and a third for textbooks and supplies.

Also, it's a multistage process, with the department certifying eligibility but colleges also required to send in paperwork to certify enrollment.

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