Thousands of veterans going to school under the new Post-9/11 GI Bill will be eligible for $3,000 in emergency aid if they have not yet received their payments.

As the http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/university/article_c0f80e80-a5ff-11de-89ac-001cc4c002e0.html"> Cap Times reported earlier this month, veterans locally have been frustrated both with the time it's taking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to process benefits, and the lack of information available to those attempting to check on the status of their claims.

"Students should be focusing on their studies, not worrying about financial difficulties," Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, http://www1.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=1783">admitted in a press release late last week.

According to an http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/25/AR2009092503551.html"> article in the Washington Post, the VA has been overwhelmed by a flood of applications to take advantage of the new GI Bill. Of the 251,000 students who have submitted claims this year, just 24,186 -- or less than 10 percent -- have received checks, according to VA officials.

Although many universities and colleges -- such as UW-Madison and Madison Area Technical Collge -- are deferring tuition payments, the delays have forced students to take out loans, rack up credit card debt and consider dropping out of school in order to meet living expenses.

So, starting Friday, veterans can request a $3,000 advance on their housing and book allowances by bringing a photo ID, course schedule and eligibility certificate to one of the VA's 57 regional offices. In Wisconsin, that means traveling to the http://www.vba.va.gov/ro/milwaukee/index.htm">Milwaukee Regional Office.

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