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Vets having trouble getting GIBill funds for school

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They've already served our country, but some veterans are having a hard time getting money promised to them for college.

After two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, 30-year-old Stephen Ollar is back in college, getting his second bachelor's degree. But instead of the GI bill paying for his education, Ollar says he's had to dip into his retirement.

"I put money away in the military for my retirement, because of the delays with UT, I have been forced to sell those shares and by consequence take a huge tax burden," said Ollar.

Ollar says the problem is with the UT's office of the registrar. In order for veterans to get federal and state benefits, the registrar's office must certify the eligibility of classes. He says it's that process that is taking too long and he's not the only one.

Ollar is also the president of the Student Veterans Association and says several officers have had the same issues and they are struggling. He wrote about it an editorial in the Daily Texan last month.

"We've done socials and hey, are you going to come out and they say, I don't even have $5 to buy a beer, some put on credit cards," said Ollar.

"We empathize with the situation the students find themselves in order to find the finances to attend the university," said Shelby Standfield with UT's office of the registrar.

She says they are working to fix the problem. They're paying overtime, redistributed the workload, and brought in additional staff.

"A student can apply for benefits as soon as they register for the upcoming term but anytime there is an adjustment in schedule such as adding a class, dropping a class, we go back through and certify that applicant's file again," said Standfield.

Standfield says then the application is off to the Veterans Administration Office. He says that turnaround time is two to six weeks. Standfield also says they've seen a 150 percent increase in student veterans applying for benefits.

The state recently extended benefits to dependents of veterans. There are also more student veterans on campus from around 600 last year up to 800 this Fall.

For Ollar, he says the problem is unacceptable, especially with more veterans expected to go to school.

"Every year we are expecting, as we wind down these two wars, there to be a greater increase in veterans in education so if they can't handle it now, how are they going to be able to handle it next semester?" asked Ollar.

UT recently started the office of Student Veterans Services to deal with student veterans and their issues. The UT registrar says they expect to finish 36 applications in the next day or so. That leaves between 50 to 60 and they will have to wait on students to fill those out properly.

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