The Veterans Benefits Administration recently released the following statement:
As of Friday, September 28, 2018, there were over 193,000 Veterans and their family members awaiting payments and decisions on their claims. This represents a 56.5% increase in pending workload as compared to this time last year.
In addition to the increase in workload, the VA is experiencing technical difficulties with pulling initial certification information from their enrollment certification system. In some instances, VA representatives are relaying to students that they were never certified, however this is not the case. All eligible SUNY Empire State College recipients of VA education benefits have been certified. Students with specific questions about pending VA payments should call the GI Bill Hotline at 1-888-442-4551.
Using Veterans Educational Benefits at Empire State College
If you are not certain whether you have VA benefit information on file for the fall term, please email VCO@esc.edu.
Certification Information for Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) or Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30, Chapter 1606, and Chapter 1607) and Chapter 35 DEA program
If you have questions about what benefits you qualify for, or to find out the amount of your remaining entitlement to benefits, please contact the VA directly. For information about all VA benefits, including benefits other than education benefits, please call the VA’s toll-free telephone number, 800-827-1000. For information related specifically to the Post 9/11 GI Bill or Montgomery GI Bill, please call the GI Bill Hotline, 888-442-4551. To apply for benefits and/or obtain proof of entitlement to benefits, you can visit the VA eBenefits website or www.va.gov .
Acceptable proof of entitlement to benefits includes:
- a copy of the confirmation you receive when you submit your application for benefits (sufficient only for one term of VA enrollment certification, after which you must provide one of the following as proof of entitlement to benefits)
- a screen shot of your VA eBenefits Education Entitlement information
- a screen shot of your Vets.gov entitlement information
- a copy of your Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which is the approval letter the VA sends after they review your application.
Proof of entitlement to benefits can be emailed to VCO@esc.edu, faxed to (518) 580-0105, or mailed to SUNY Empire State College, Office of the Registrar, 2 Union Ave, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.
Once you have submitted proof of entitlement to benefits, we will keep it on file until you officially enroll at your Empire State College center. By sending proof of entitlement to benefits, you are indicating that you intend to have current and future enrollment certified with the VA, which will continue until you exhaust your benefits or until you inform the Veteran Certifying Official that you do not want benefits applied. Your enrollment will automatically be certified after you enroll if all VA requirements for certification have been met. Please take into consideration that it normally takes 8-l0 weeks after we submit your certification for you to receive your first check. If you have questions about what payment you can expect to receive or when payments will be issued, please contact the VA directly at 888-442-4551.
Certification Information for Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation
To initiate enrollment certification under the Chapter 31 program, either you or your VA counselor needs to send in VA form 28-1905 showing you are approved for the term you are enrolling in. When authorization for the term is received, the ESC Bookstore is notified by email that you are entitled to third-party invoicing for your books. If your VA counselor provides you with a form requesting supplies, the Veteran Certifying Official is responsible for signing the form and returning it. After your enrollment is certified, a copy of the VA enrollment certification is sent to your VA counselor. If you have questions about payment, the best source to contact is your VA counselor.
If you are using a benefit or participating in a program that includes a monthly housing allowance, it is very important for you to know that the VA requires all ESC credits to be certified as distance learning, regardless of the mode of study. Even if you are meeting face to face with an instructor, your enrollment will be certified as distance learning. The distance learning housing allowance is only granted for more-than half-time study, meaning you have to be enrolled in at least 7 credits for undergraduate study or at least 5 credits for graduate level study, and is granted on a prorated basis depending on your rate of pursuit and percent of entitlement (if applicable). The distance learning housing allowance works out to roughly half of what the national average Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH, paid for in-residence study) would be. To qualify for BAH, ESC students must cross register or take a course at with a brick and mortar school for an in-residence study. See the Student Accounts website for more information about cross registration.
If you are enrolling as a guest student at another school and are using VA education benefits or are participating in Chapter 31 VA Vocational Rehabilitation, you may be asked to provide a VA parent/primary letter to the other school so they can certify your enrollment. Requests for VA parent/primary letters can be sent to VCO@esc.edu. When requesting a letter, please include copies of any cross registration paperwork you completed (if applicable) and a copy of your schedule and billing statement from the other school.
If you are not an ESC student and would like to be certified as a guest student for ESC enrollment, please ask your parent/primary school to send a VA parent/primary letter to the Veteran Certifying Official at VCO@esc.edu to request a guest enrollment certification.
Reporting Enrollment Changes to the VA
ESC is required to report enrollment changes related to all credits certified to the VA. This includes adding studies, dropping studies, withdrawing from studies, and being academically withdrawn from studies. ESC is also required to report graduation, academic warning and academic dismissal to the VA for students using VA education benefits. As a veteran who has accepted benefits, you will be directly responsible for any overpayments that you may receive. If you have questions about how an enrollment change is going to impact you financially, please contact ESC’s Military Student Accounts Coordinator, Kimberly Durant at Kimberly.Durant@esc.edu. If you have questions about when a change in enrollment will be reported to the VA, please email VCO@esc.edu.
Leah Lear is ESC’s Veteran Certifying Official. If you have any questions about using veterans educational benefits at Empire State College, please contact the Office of the Registrar at VCO@esc.edu.
For current students: Registrar in MyESC (login required)