Bay Area vets get government payment

October 2, 2009 7:13:45 PM PDT
The number of people who have lost their jobs is the highest since the great depression. But America's veterans are getting some new help.

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The G.I. Bill which pays for college is being expanded to cover more than just tuition and it is a huge relief.

But it's also hugely popular which is causing a log-jam.

Hundreds of U.S. veterans waited in line at the VA Regional Office in Oakland to get an emergency payment of up to $3,000.

"I woke up at 3:00 a.m. I drove all the up from Fresno, California here. I got here at 8:30 a.m. and I've been waiting since," said Fresno veteran Amanda Pumarejo

Almost all are post 9/11 veterans. They are getting what no other vet has ever received --- more money for college through the expanded G.I. Bill.

"What's expanded about the new law is that it not only covers tuition and fees and book fees but it also has an allowance for living expenses that is paid to the veteran," said Lynn Flint from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The old G.I. Bill paid a flat fee to cover some college tuition and anything else was an out-of-pocket expense. This new G.I. Bill comes at the right time when jobs are scarce.

"For people who don't have jobs right now, there is the option to go to school and get paid for it," said Vallejo veteran Antaeus Silas.

Congress passed the bill which went into effect August 1st.

But there's a huge backlog ? 290,000 veterans applied nationwide, yet only 34,000 or 12 percent have received money, until today when emergency checks were handed out.

"Mommy's at work so daddy had to take baby with him to pick up a three-thousand dollar check to make up for a couple of months that I haven't gotten paid," said Concord veteran Chris Quenzer.

Silas is grateful for the chance to go back to college.

"Oh Yes. Yes indeed, especially now," he said.

After today, veterans attending college won't have to come to the office. The can sign up for direct deposit or wait for a check in the mail. Those thinking of enrolling in the program can do so online.

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