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Ohio State student-veterans’ future payments at risk if government shutdown persists

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Some of Ohio State student-veterans’ future payments may be at risk in the event that the government shutdown continues until late October.

The GI Bill has paid student-veterans’ tuition and fees through Fall Semester 2012, but if the shutdown continues and the debt ceiling is breached, funding for Spring Semester as well as students’ month-to-month living stipends could stop, said Mike Carrell, director of OSU’s Office of Military and Veterans Services, in an email.

“If the government runs out of money under a debt-limit scenario later this month … student-veterans’ payments would be stopped,” he said.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing for student-veterans who served at least 90 days of aggregate service after Sept. 10, 2001, or who were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days, according to its website.

The U.S. government discontinued funding for federal services not deemed “essential” starting Oct. 1 after Congress failed to approve a national budget Sept. 30.

OSU has more than 2,200 students using benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense, the overwhelming majority of whom are veterans who use the GI Bill benefits those students are the ones who would be affected by the shutdown, Carrell said.

John Haviland, a former Marine Corps military police officer and an OSU student, said he would face issues if the shutdown continues.

“I rely on my payments through the GI Bill for paying for my rent, paying for my car, as well as all of my other bills,” the second-year in computer science and engineering said. “If it affects me, so be it, I’ll have to drop out of school for a semester or two go and get a full-time job and then I can come back. My money will be here sooner or later. I’ll find some way to survive.”

While programs dealing with the compensation, pension, education and vocational rehabilitation of veterans have enough funding to continue through late October, “in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted,” the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stated in a Sept. 30 guide about what veteran services would be impacted in the case of a shutdown.

Some services have already been impacted. New claims for receiving monthly living stipends are being delayed because of furloughed federal workers, meaning they were given a temporary unpaid leave, some information assistance phone lines are unmanned and VetSuccess on Campus, a VA-sponsored program that helps veterans transition into college life, was suspended Tuesday, Carrell said in an email.

Tuition assistance funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, though, is among the programs that would face suspension. Some students whose classes began after Oct. 1 were not allowed to use the program. If the shutdown is not quickly resolved, OSU will be among the universities that do not have tuition assistance come Spring Semester, Carrell said.

Haviland said he is hopeful the government can avoid what could come of an extended shutdown.

“Right now, I’m just trying to keep faith that they will reach an agreement, that they will end the shutdown,” he said.

Some student-veterans said they would rather face the consequences of a prolonged government shutdown then let a portion of the House of Representatives dictate policy.

“I’m pretty much living off of freaking VA benefits, but at the same time, I’d rather have to suck it up for a couple months then to see the Constitution be undermined by a group of people,” said Steve Potts, a Marine Corps veteran and a first-year in psychology and security and intelligence.

President Barack Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act into law Sept. 30. The law allows military members as well as Department of Defense workers to receive pay during a government shutdown until there is a resolution. The breadth of what POMA covers is unclear, though, Carrell said.

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