I have been extremely fortunate in regard to my dealings with the VA since I got out of the Marine Corps that fateful day. When I say extremely fortunate, I am of course referring to the fact that I’ve had very little in the way of issues since I started utilizing my Post 9/11 GI Bill–a benefit I am truly grateful for. On the other hand, my disability claim was lost in the wind and if I want to fix it there are many hoops I will find myself jumping through.
I can’t tell you the countless horror stories that Marines have emailed me or told me about in regards to the VA’s convoluted process of accessing the benefits due to you after your service is complete. It begins with filing, which is generally fairly straightforward and simply takes a trip to the local VA office, but after that there are a number of possible scenarios in which your claim or your benefits will fall victim to error. I’ve heard of veterans not getting their GI Bill paid on time, not getting paid the correct amount, disability claims disappearing, awarding the wrong percent–or my personal favorite: they pay you too much money and force you either to pay it back or skip your next payment.
To describe the feeling one gets when they see that slightly-oversized envelope stamped with “VA” on the front–how fearful and trembling the hands are as they open it–it is nigh impossible without experiencing it firsthand. Why am I afraid to open my correspondence from the Office of Veteran’s Affairs? Because I know there’s the possibility that they are informing me that something went horribly wrong, and I won’t be receiving my dues or otherwise. It’s not that I’m afraid that I’ve done something wrong in regards to my benefits, I’m afraid I did everything right and will fall victim to the insanity that the VA is known for.
With all of that said, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is the best benefit the military has ever had. If you’re out of the military and you choose not to use it, you are wasting it. They are very literally paying you (and paying well, I might add) to go to college and get yourself a degree. Convoluted or not, don’t think of passing up the opportunity to cash in on what you earned. And to the VA’s credit, I think they’re generally a pretty nice bunch of people that genuinely care about us, they unfortunately have to deal with the bureaucracy like anyone else.
I can’t tell you how many people I know that exited the Corps just as I did, only to find themselves realizing they have no idea how to survive. They try to get a job and can’t seem to lock anything down, they tell me they’re trying to get back in. My usual response?
You’re an idiot. Go to school. There’s NO reason not to.