Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Check please!

Those students who were about to drive 400 miles to their VA regional office, heed this press release:

Last week Shinseki announced that on Friday, Oct. 2, VA’s 57 regional benefits offices will begin providing on-the-spot emergency payments up to $3,000 to students who have applied for their education benefits but who have not yet received a government payment.

Citing the distance many Veterans would have to travel to apply in person at a VA benefits office, Shinseki announced Veterans can also apply online at, starting Oct. 2. The online application will guide Veterans through the process to supply needed information. Shinseki noted that online applicants will receive their emergency payments through the mail after processing.

That clears up question #1 from yesterday. No word on question #2.

The press release also describes a free van service that departs from your local VA medical facility. So if you drive or take the van, make triple sure you have proof of enrollment (acceptable documentation are vague, so bring your class schedule, enrollment certification letter from the VA and lucky rabbit's foot). Personally I would not want to take the van. In the inevitable event of someone leaving empty handed, waiting around for everyone else to collect would be pretty frustrating. Plus I do not know what is involved in a VA van ride. I imagine filling out three forms, waiting in a line and scheduling an appointment to take a piss at a rest stop.

For the cynics, the online registration seems like the safest bet. You don't have to go anywhere and it'll take up to three business days to process. Then it's up to the guiding hand of the US Postal Service. If you register on Friday, you will likely get your check by the end of next week barring any difficulties.

I acknowledge that we should never have gotten to the point of emergency checks, but this could be the best solution considering the circumstances. I hope it goes off without a hitch. After the tensions in DC cool, I hope the VA takes a hard look at its program implementation staff and protocol. That they reacted to the crisis with a reasonable solution is commendable. That they had to react in the first place is disconcerting at best. Friend of the blog Ryan dropped out of his first semester, and there is no telling how many took out high interest loans just to stay afloat when funds from the VA should have been the least of their worries.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Closer Look at the Gift Horse

Not everyone has been impressed with the VA's too little, too late response to the newest GI Bill misadventure. Jonn from This Ain't Hell brings up salient points about the implementation side of the $3000 dollar payout:

To get your partial payment of your GI Bill benefits which you earned and filed for months ago, you have to go to one of 57 Regional Offices.

I went to SUNY Oswego - my regional office was Buffalo. A four hour drive each way. But not to worry, the same VA who couldn’t get your benefit to you on time will send representatives to your school to arrange transportation to the regional office. How dependable will that be?

I can schedule buses, for Pete’s sake - the veterans don’t need an eight hour bus ride (how many buses will be late, and how many veterans will ride for hours to find out their paperwork is screwed up, how many buses will break down?) they need their money that the government has been promising since before the last election!

A lot of folks were swept up in the news of the VA doing anything that they didn't consider how poorly this plan is being assembled (myself included). I'm one of the lucky few who have been paid under Chapter 33 (thanks to Squeaky Wheel Syndrome), but veterans who haven't been as lucky will need to make the trek to their regional office. Recently resurrected Joe from Fobbits Need Ice Cream 2.0 notes that he would have to skip school to get what is owed to him (note: the VA cuts you off like a frostbitten leg if you don't keep up good grades). Now, I'm no student of the inner workings of government bureaucracies, but I have two questions:

1. Why can't the VA send the checks through mail or direct deposit accounts they already have on file?

2. Why can't any VA facility cut a check?

I don't think of the VA as a health care and benefits distribution service. I think of them as a claims denial service. This action seems to weed out any of those veterans unwilling or unable to make the long drive to their regional office. God help you if you live out in the sticks or don't bring the proper documentation. The more I look at this eleventh hour peace offering, the more it looks like a dead fish.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The exception to the USAF pogue rule

Mike Yon sent this with the words, "These are the guys you needed when you broke your arm." Seriously. It would have been worth the accident to see their bird descend on northbound Mopac and shoot flares at horrified soccer moms. Beats driving yourself to the hospital with a mangled arm in your lap.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Frogs, checks falling from the sky

The VA has taken a huge step forward in righting its wrongs with the GI Bill brouhaha by issuing $3,000 emergency checks to veterans who have yet to receive housing benefits. The money quote:

Starting Friday, Oct. 2, 2009, students can go to one of VA’s 57 regional benefit offices with a photo ID and a course schedule to request advance payment of their education benefits. Because not all these offices are located near students, VA expects to send representatives to schools with large Veteran-student bodies and work with Veteran Service Organizations to help students with transportation needs.A list of those VA regional offices is available here.

The VA deserves recognition for this. They've taken a lot of heat for this fiasco, but their decision to take emergency measures was the right course of action. It'll save many veterans from getting tossed out on their ass. Well done.

Update: Perhaps my celebration was premature. Ryan has dropped out of school due to lack of funds. To say the VA was late on this is a gross understatement. Their negligence is inexcusable no matter how you look at it. I can only hope this debacle will be the last obscene miscalculation they make, but I'm not terribly faithful when it comes to the VA.

Reality Bites

Note: While my arm is healing, I'll do my best to drop by and divvy out small, decadent portions of interesting links like so many amuse-bouche.

There's a war in Afghanistan that hasn't reached the media by its design: the information counterinsurgency. Mike Yon has been disembedded from the much sought after unit 2 Rifles following his criticism of the purseholders of the Ministry of Defense (namely the shameful lack of helicopters in theater). The media ops of the British military made it their mission to complicate Mike's critical job of reporting on the soldiers in Helmand Province, the flashpoint of Taliban resistance. He has a clear and indelible respect for the British fighting men, so to see him tossed out on his ear by some desk riding pogue is most alarming. One particular line about a media ops major caught my attention:

"Media Ops people—who do not leave their base or go on missions—who are spooling out “the message” to the media. They are clueless about the state of the war in Afghanistan. For instance, many of the Media Ops officers will insist that we have enough helicopters in Afghanistan. Those officers are either completely oblivious to the actuality of the situation or lying."

Shades of experience. In the 15th month of our tour, my platoon was called on our rest day to take part in a meticulously crafted PR stunt in downtown Baqubah. We were to escort the deputy prime minister of Iraq to demonstrate that the city's security situation had improved (it had) and that it was safe to mill about the city (it wasn't). Each Stryker was crammed with lite colonels, full bird colonels and generals - layabout officers that clearly did not get out much, judging from their jacked up chinstraps and alarming lack of weapons. In my truck, two Associated Press reporters chatted with a public affairs lieutenant from the Air Force.

I developed a system of determining the amount of time someone spends outside the wire by evaluating the uniform and equipment of a soldier:

[] Magazine pouch attached to the receiver
[] Immaculate weapon
[] Two or less magazine pouches attached to body armor
[] Crisp, distinctive crease on the sleeves indicating a uniform press
[] Lack of night vision goggle mount
[] Bright digital patterns on body armor
[] Boots show visible signs of cleaning

For the lieutenant, I checked all the above. Now, I understand everyone has a role to play and sometimes that means not going outside the wire. I get it. But as a public affairs officer, she was, as Mike put it, spooling out the message to the media. In her five months in Iraq, it was her first time in the wild brown yonder. The AP reporters were pressing her about the improved security situation, namely the role the Sons of Iraq played in the new security apparatus. As a base dweller, it was patently impossible for her to see a SoI volunteer, much less work with one.

Sprinkled among the brass and reporters were pitifully dirty soldiers with very little rest. Their body armor vests were faded to a light brown hue like they were dragged behind a pickup on a dusty back road. Their desert tan boots bore shades of black that could only result from wallowing in the open sewers of Iraq's most deplorable slums. At their feet were myriad brass shell casings from firefights deadly and ubiquitous. Yet the public affairs officer enlightens the press of the situation on the ground. As it happened in Iraq 2007, so it happens in Afghanistan 2009. The story of the war is kept away from those intimately involved in favor of those far removed and easily corruptible. This is the starting point of ill-equipped soldiers getting killed: message control and a strong aversion to the realities of protracted counterinsurgency operations.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tough Break

I haven't typed with one hand since I was a thirteen year old trying to figure out what a/s/l stood for, but here I am again. This past Saturday I was on my way to the Austin gun show (the biggest in Texas!), yet fate had a different plan that didn't involve trying to find a decently priced SKS. Just before my exit, I rear-ended a car that changed lanes a little too swiftly. My truck is a little banged up and I walked away with a broken arm. The other driver and his passenger were thankfully unhurt but came away with a ticket and liability for the accident. Unfortunately, I cannot type efficiently or quickly with a cast, which means I'll be incommunicado on this blog until my arm is once again unfettered. In the meantime, I suggest keeping up with the Joneses of the milblogging community. Any link found on the left sidebar should do the trick. Feel free to browse my archives, check out my photo album or follow me on Facebook while I'm out of commission. Thanks for stopping by.

Your humbly gimp wordsmith,


Edit 9/25/2009 5:PM - Welcome Michael Yon Twitter followers. I should take the time to update my current condition. My left arm (the dominant one) suffered direct trauma referred to as a nightstick fracture, "named because of the injury that results when attempting to block the downward blow of a nightstick with the raised forearm." My x-ray looked much like this:

My arm was put into an infantry blue cast yesterday. The doctor estimated it will be on for five weeks at least. The cast almost reaches my shoulder and is very obtrusive. As for my financial status, I'll be paid lost wages by the liable insurance company plus a small settlement.

Typing with my less dominant hand will take getting used to, but my speed and accuracy are greatly diminished. Homework will not be as fun as it was before the accident. Rest assured, though, by November I should be back to full strength, less one atrophied arm.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Empire Strikes Back: GI Bill Questions Answered

Not much has changed since I posted my love letter to the VA last week. Just from today's Facebook status updates I saw these messages from friends in my old company:

"VA has not finished processing my CH33 app after at least 2 months... now I'm stuck with the bill"

"VA can go to hell! I'm screwed...again..."

Many student veterans are still dealing with issues that are systemic of a large bureaucracy where answers to common questions are lost in the shuffle. The first and last contact for veterans is the school certifying official on their campus. As evidenced in my previous post, the professionalism and tenacity of these officials vary greatly from campus to campus. Some give wise advice, some go the extra mile for the veterans they assist. Some, like mine, laugh at legitimate questions and wait until the last minute to certify enrollment. As this generation of veterans is painfully realizing, you roll the dice any time you interact with the VA system.

Last week I had another opportunity to speak with Keith Wilson, the Veterans Benefits Administration Director of Education Service at the VA. I compiled a list of questions for him to answer, some from me, some from other veterans that have similar problems but haven't received satisfying answers.


Onto the questions, starting with the big one:

"When the hell am I getting paid, dammit?"

Not every veteran can piss and moan on a blog loud enough to get a VA official as high as Keith to handle their individual case. He gave me an approximate time frame to expect my housing allowance and stipend money. That is well and good, but what about everyone else? His reply: "First, the certifying official should have the same info I provided. If not available there, it is available by calling VA. Also, I'd be happy to put it on our web and Facebook pages. It should be up in a couple days."

My certifying official provides the same level of care you would expect from a Tijuana back alley vasectomy; he couldn't answer that question after the many calls, voice mails, emails, smoke signals and carrier pigeon messages I relayed to him. I figure I am not an isolated case and assume there must be more apathetic certifying officials out there. As an alternative, Keith recommends calling the VA. If you have three hours and your sanity to spare, give that a shot. The wait is excruciating when you have to juggle a commute, school and work daily, but you might be able to get answers to questions that your school official cannot (or will not) answer.

"How is the Chapter 33 housing allowance paid?"

After you get the first delayed check, expect to see the housing allowance paid just like Chapter 30 payments are made, just without the monthly certification (which will now be automatic). They will come a few days after the beginning of the month, and just like Chapter 30, are paid in arrears (which is hilariously defined as a "delay in payment"). When I asked why the payments are in arrears and not in "real time," Keith had this to say:

"All monthly Federal benefit checks I am aware of, including all recurring VA benefit payments, are paid in arrears. That is because the law requires the person be entitled (in our case having pursued and attended class) before payments can be made. In other words, we can't pay until classes have been attended."

In other words, registering for classes and buying expensive books no longer qualify as reliable indicators of ones interest in schooling. The government and the VA by proxy require a month's worth of sitting in a hard plastic chair to determine eligibility. Registration for the fall semester was open in June at my school. Presumably, I could sign up for classes, have my classes and enrollment certified and housing allowance figured more than two months before classes began. If I would drop a class, I would repay the money. There is already a system in place to deal with that; the VA sends you a bill or simply withholds the due amount the next time you are set to receive a payment. So why the delay? The government's logic is best explained by the most shrewd of businessmen, Whimpy:

"I'll gladly give you an IOU Tuesday for rent due today."

"Will the housing allowance be paid year round?"

No, only during the months you are enrolled in classes. That means if you take the summer off, you will not get paid housing for the months in between the spring and fall semesters. However, for the break in between fall and spring (Christmas break), the VA will "bridge" the gap and continue paying. The same thing goes for the break between the summer and fall semester if you are enrolled in both. The amount of housing allowance received isn't figured just on months accumulated on active duty and the amount of credit hours. The number of days you are enrolled in a particular month figures into the payment amount as well. For example, I took summer classes that ended August 13. The fall semester did not start until August 24, so for the month of August, I was in class twenty days. I will receive the maximum housing allowance payment. If I wouldn't have taken the summer semester, I would have been in class for seven days in August. The payment this September would have been prorated to only include housing for those seven days. At the time of the Q&A, Keith did not have an answer for the amount of enrollment days the VA considers high enough to give the maximum payment.

"What if I'm an overachiever and want to take summer classes? Will I get additional book stipend money to cover that period?"

Negative. The $1000 stipend for books and supplies is meant for a calender year, not an academic year. They figure that $500 a semester, fall and spring respectively, is enough to cover everything. They're correct if you buy your books used, online or rent them, but what about those of us who want to punish ourselves and opt for summer classes? There will be no additional funds handed out to summer semester students, so use your stipend wisely. I suggest putting the $1000 into a separate account so you don't drop it all on a new Kegerator. The $1000 will be paid in two payments of roughly $500 over the next few days (so I'm told). That means I will have to sit tight until next year for another stipend. You might have to dip into your housing allowance a little, but you should be able to stretch that money pretty far if you take the time to hunt for textbooks outside of your overpriced campus bookstore.

"Why did I get a letter asking me to not contact the VA in case I have a question or concern?"

The matter is being looked into. I've heard this a few times and it is particularly unsettling.

"What is taking so long? Didn't the VA anticipate a burden on the system?"

The VA was met with incredible demand for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Having said that, the VA has been playing catch-up since the bill became law a year ago. According to the AP, the process is done by hand and can take up to two hours to determine the benefits for a single veteran. Keith adds: "Processing claims is currently a labor intensive process due to the limited time allowed to set up this program (i.e. create and modify IT systems, etc). Therefore, VA has hired over 750 additional claims processors. This is a temporary measure because we are moving to an automated system that will require significantly less human interaction in the claims process. Doing so will require significantly less staff and, most importantly, will greatly improve claims processing speed. The system is currently scheduled for full deployment in December 2010."

This is pure speculation on my part, but this initial crush of applications would seem to be the greatest burden on the system. The process will not be automated until next year, but the number of new applications should drop considerably after this fall. With any luck, Chapter 33 applications will be processed in a timely fashion next spring and thereafter.


Like I said before, taking on the VA at any time is a gamble. Relying on them to cover your bills is an incredibly risky calculation. Making the switch from Chapter 30 to Chapter 33 this semester was a bad move on the part of many veterans, myself included. Tuition and rent due in August sit heavy on the chest of exhausted students who just want to go to school with few hassles as possible. Tuition payment and housing allowances are not bonuses or lavish gifts or superflous spending. They are benefits earned through sweat on the brow and blood in the sand. I understand that the VA is overtasked and doing the best they can with what they have. We are told that the system will be fixed soon. Unfortunately, promises do not keep the lights on, nor do they do little to assuage the worries of veterans who have earned the right for a little peace of mind.


Thanks to Keith Wilson for the generous use of his time answering my questions. If he isn't displeased at my remarks here, hopefully he can return to answer more specific questions that some of you may have. New media and the government should be operating in a way like this, and it shows a great deal of fortitude and transparency for an official like Keith to answer questions from us non-media folk.


Useful links:

The VA's GI Bill Homepage
IAVA's GI Bill Info Dump
IAVA's GI Bill Benefits Calculator

Friday, September 04, 2009

Through Amber Lenses, A Light

At times he must have been no more than two hundred feet from me, but I never had the privilege to meet Jordan Shay. Together we chewed up the most inhospitable terrain on earth, and back on Ft. Lewis, we worked daily in the same dilapidated Korean War era barracks. The only connection I shared with Jordan was through the comments section of his blog, which I keep linked on the top of the page under our unit crest. Though our companies faced a heated inter-battalion rivalry, Attack Company was always in the thick of combat with my company, Battle. They shouldered a far greater burden than us, sustaining eight KIAs to our two. Jordan, at 22 years old, saw more combat than a lot of crusty old vets before he could legally buy a beer. For his second combat tour with the 3rd Stryker Brigade, Jordan started a blog to chronicle his experience. He named it Through Amber Lenses, the color of his sunglasses. He wanted to explain to the world what he saw with a bright amber tint.

What I read when I checked his most recent comment section hit me straight in the gut. "RIP Jordan." I rushed to the DoD announcement page and found nothing. Through a Google search I confirmed my worst fear: Jordan Shay, 22 years young, killed in Iraq.

It will always be difficult to hear a Regular soldier has been killed, but to see Jordan leave us too soon hits me especially hard. I didn't know Jordan personally, but I knew him well. I understand his need to commit his thoughts to writing to share with the rest of us. He spoke of his teachers and his mother pushing him to write more. I'm eternally grateful for their efforts, and to Jordan to take them up on their challenge. We did not only lose a great soldier, but a gifted writer. We suffer doubly at his loss, for his talent bridged the gap of understanding between soldier and civilian. Jordan's time on earth allowed just sixteen posts to be written in the span of four months, but his writing was honest, measured and disciplined. He must have thought he was bound for something great, but he never realized he was already there.

The United States lost a brave soldier, and the military blog community lost a brave new voice. I ask that you take the time to read his blog from beginning to end. In his comments section, his girlfriend tells us the blog was important to him. I hope he realized how important it was to those who read it.

"We are respected in Baqubah. We are also feared. Our battalion has a fantastic opportunity to use these facts to our advantage and make a real difference before the withdrawal of all combat forces in the summer of next year. We made a difference in 2007, we could do it again in 2009. I fear we will not."

Rest easy, Jordan. You've made a difference to more than you know.

Update 9:00 PM central - The Department of Defense has officially announced the death of Jordan and fellow soldier SSG Todd Selge. Unlike Jordan, I met Todd at Javelin School on Ft. Lewis. He was a quiet professional, confident in his skills as a leader. I believe he graduated at the top of the class, but it would be no surprise if you had talked to the man for more than a minute. The nation is lesser for the loss of these two soldiers.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Politics of Purse Strings

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened." - The one true prophet, Obi-Wan Kenobi

When the Post 9/11 Bill passed through Congress with a veto-proof majority, I cheered. When it was signed into law, I was elated. But on August 1 of this year, when the bill went live after almost three years of legislation, hopes, dreams and well-wishes, I was silent. I did not want to commemorate a non-event as a moment of triumph. I took part in lobbying on Capitol Hill for the bill when it was just that - a scrap of paper that promised financial security in a post-Army life where almost everything feels uncertain and nebulous. I knew it would take at least a month after August 1 to see how it would play out. Through fears that the VA would fumble this rare opportunity to make good on a solemn promise made by FDR sixty-five years ago, I watched August crawl by, swept up in a lazy mosaic of final exams and term papers that capped a full semester. With the old GI Bill in hand and the new one on the way, I took a leap of faith. With my bank account dwindling and rent, utility bills, school tuition and other obligations on the table, coupled with the advice of my VA counselor, I bet it all on the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

And I lost.

A bit about the old GI Bill first. Most people generally misunderstand how the old GI Bill, hereafter referred to as Chapter 30, is paid to veterans. When a veteran enrolls in college, he must go to a VA counselor at the campus and fill out paperwork. First you must declare a major and select classes that specifically fulfill that major's criteria. I originally signed up for journalism, so I was restricted to only take core curriculum or journalism-centric classes. The amount of money received is calculated by the amount of semester hours taken. A full load of twelve hours with my optional pay-in (a kicker) of $600 yielded $1400 for every month enrolled. That money is paid directly to the student to pay for tuition, books, school fees and other expenses. If enrolled at a state school where tuition exceeded that amount, the difference is up to the student to make up.

The payments from Chapter 30 are retroactive by a month. For example, I started summer school in June, but my first payment was not made until the first week of July. I was paid for July the first week of August. This window does not allow for tuition to be paid when it is due, typically before classes start. The student must come up with that money on their own. Many veterans depend on Chapter 30 not only to pay for classes but for sustainability. That always-late payment is the difference between a warm bed and an eviction notice in many cases.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill, also known as Chapter 33, is more akin to the original GI Bill of 1944. Instead of a flat rate that fails to keep up with ever-rising tuition, the VA pays the school the tuition up front at the beginning of the semester and will pay up to the most expensive in-state school. Additionally, housing allowance equivalent to a married E-5 with dependents is paid to the student each month, based on the school's ZIP code. To sweeten the deal, a stipend of $1000 per year is paid to the student for books and other miscellaneous expenses. These payments go straight to the student, so if they can get their budgets in order, it can translate to a decent amount of pocket change to mitigate the burden of balancing full time loads of work and school.

Those education benefits are law - they must be dished out for anyone who qualifies for them. But the unstoppable force of government mandates did not anticipate the immovable object that oversees the transition from Chapter 30 to Chapter 33 - the Department of Veteran's Affairs. Despite Chapter 33 becoming law more than a year ago, the VA, in a signature move, was slow to implement rules and conditions that clearly defined how and what veteran students would be paid. Even though they anticipated a huge upswing in applications, they did not start accepting paperwork on Chapter 33 until July. Now they're getting crushed with a six week backlog, but the VA staffers aren't the ones suffering with the surge of applications, the students are.

Under the old bill, Chapter 30, the student must call a hot line on the last day of the month to certify that their status has not changed since the previous month. The payment is then sent to the student in seven to ten days. It has become a ritual for veteran students, a promise to see that beautiful deposit in a week's time. But today, some who have submitted paperwork for Chapter 33 might find the certification for Chapter 30 a bit of a challenge. My school's VA counselor assured a seamless transition - he told me those who were switching over would get paid for the months they already paid tuition for. Once again, someone forgot to forward the memo. Since my claim for Chapter 33 is still being processed, I'm locked out of Chapter 30. Even though I paid for the summer semester, I am not getting paid for August. My case is in limbo, familiar territory for the VA. My bills, on the other hand, are very clearly defined. They pile up as fast as the VA's backlogs.

The VA counselors at my school buy salt in bulk to pour into the wounds of the students they are purported to serve. One in particular lambasts me whenever I call with a legitimate question regarding veteran benefits. With his trademark condescending tone, he sharply rebuked my questions about a delay in payments, suggesting that I should have been following the news of backlogged certifications, despite his assurance that the transition would not allow a payment disparity. Oh, to be tongue-lashed for not doing his job for him! He heartily laughed at my question of when to expect my next payment. In that brief moment, he acknowledged the absurdity of my situation - he didn't know, and there is no way to find out. He could not even venture a guess but did not rule out weeks or even a month. The check is in the mail, I am told. That old line doesn't work for my landlord, and it wouldn't get past my utility company. But for the government agency responsible for the benefits going out to the men and women who have served this country in a time of war, with the basic sustenance of thousands of veterans in the balance, it's business as usual.

I believe in the idea that people get the government they deserve. But do veterans get the VA they deserve? How many obscene scandals, misappropriations and misdiagnoses does it take to see there's a rotten core at the center? The VA's budget shot up and Shienseki was brought in to clean house. I'm waiting for answers from him while racking up a lot more questions.

From the Huffington Post, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki:

We face tremendous uncertainties and challenges as a Nation--economic, diplomatic, environmental, and social. We need motivated, energetic and highly educated young people to help us find solutions. We need to find ways, as America has before, to turn uncertainty into opportunity. The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill is a very good place to start.

Update: September 1, 1 PM - Within hours of this post going live, I was given the opportunity to discuss my situation with Keith Wilson, the Veterans Benefits Administration Director of Education Service at the VA. Keith was eager to assist me with my situation and is looking into the matter. I still have many questions to ask, not only for myself but on the behalf of other veterans who find themselves between a rock and the VA. I will keep you all updated, but in the meantime, fellow student veterans, use the comments section or my email (hortonhearsit at hotmail dot com) to send me questions or concerns you may have. The more detailed the picture I can present to the head honchos, the better they will be at finding solutions.