Student veterans upset with handling, delays of checks

By Brian Slupski

NIU student veterans are upset with what they perceive as inefficiencies at the Student Financial Aid Office.

Student veteran Greg Leathers said the Financial Aid Office does not meet the needs of Chapter 31 veterans at NIU.

Chapter 31 vets are veterans with combat disabilities which affect their ability to work.

Leathers said he is upset with the certification process of the Financial Aid Office.

He said the paperwork includes a card veterans must fill out which includes their class schedule, hours and semester starting and ending dates. This card determines how much money each veteran will receive from Veteran Assistance.

Leathers said because of delays in certifying and sending of the card, his check was delayed two-and-a-half months this semester and two-and-a-half months last semester.

Linda Dersch, assistant financial aid office director, said Leathers was on a “one student campaign” against the Financial Aid Office and that there had not been past problems with the paper work.

Sylvia Hamparzomian, a vocational rehabilitation VA counselor said, “that is not true, there have been others (besides Leathers), and it has happened before.”

“I think they (chapter 31 vets) are treated as second class citizens at NIU. I can’t pinpoint the reason, but it is a general feeling I get,” she said.

Financial Aid Office Director Jerry Augsburger said he did not feel that the statement even warranted a response. “All students at NIU are treated in a fair and equitable manner.”

Chapter 31 veteran John Javurek said his check had also been

delayed in the past.

Javurek said he blames the problem on budget cuts. He said he thinks “corners are being cut and things are falling through the cracks, and people are being hurt because of it.”

Patricia Schulze, an NIU student veteran under the same program, said on the whole the Financial Aid Office does a good job, but her checks are delayed almost a month every semester.

Dersch said VA regulations prohibit the cards from being sent in prior to the first day of semester unless the student attended the school the prior semester. Sending the cards in during the first days of the semester means the first checks will not arrive until October because of processing.

Dersch said if a veteran attends school in the fall and fills out the card with his mail registration in November for the spring semester, there should be no delay at all.

However, delays might occur in the handling of the cards once the VA receives them, Dersch said.

“We have a lot of problems with paper work being lost in the VA mailroom,” Dersch said.

Augsburger said in the past the documents were sent by certified mail, but this was stopped in lieu of the budget crunch.

“This office, as well as offices all over campus, has been directed to find ways to conserve money. One of the ways has been to conserve postage costs,” Augsburger said.

He said the office is going to return to using certified mail because the VA has frequently said they did not receive material which the Financial Aid Office had sent them.