Margaret Baechtold is an Air Force Veteran. She worked at IU for nearly five years as an academic advisor before assuming her current role as director of Veterans Support Services.
As the director of Veterans Support Services at Indiana University, I have the distinct honor of providing direct support to over 340 student veterans, service members and their families on the Bloomington campus. I also serve as the co-chair of our university-wide Veterans Services Committee representing seven IU campuses and over 1,600 student veterans and service members.
In these capacities I have become exceptionally familiar with the intricacies of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, an extremely generous and very well-intentioned benefit program that has been incredibly complex to implement. While I am not at liberty to propose legislative language nor to take any formal position on any pending legislation, I am very pleased to have the chance to share my experiences and observations about the Post 9/11 GI Bill and hopefully contribute to simplifying and streamlining it.
I have drafted a list of issues that I believe need consideration and improvement, both from the perspective of doing right by our veterans and from the point of view of an institution charged with accurately and equitably administering it for our students.
With IU's population of student veterans seeking benefits up 18 percent across the system and 26 percent on my campus, coupled with the complexities of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the time commitment for processing benefit requests at our institution has increased immensely. Consistent with the VA's experience, it also takes schools three to four times longer to process and track a Chapter 33 student's enrollment than under any previous programs. While we believe that there has been a modest increase in enrollment of student veterans, most of the increased workload is due to students who were already here or in the admissions pipeline who suddenly had veterans benefits where no eligibility existed before.
As I thought about the Post 9/11 GI Bill and all the other VA programs that my office oversees on campus, I realized the total amount of detailed analysis of student records and reporting required under VA rules. This federal management of veterans benefits borders on micromanagement of programs that were created to assist individuals who have already paid their dues to earn them, and seems both inefficient and unnecessary when compared to the rules governing general student aid which comes with very few strings attached other than good academic progress.
This does not seem logical or effective to me, and it penalizes those who have already contributed their service to the nation. You will see examples of these detailed and burdensome rules below, some specific to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, while others are related to all VA education benefit programs.
I have tried to organize the issues and ideas into two areas: the first applicable specifically to the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) and the second related to all VA education benefit programs