Aurora VA

Need more college money to get you through tight times while in school?  Here are a few strategies to help get you there.

No, this isn’t’ one of those ads for Scholarship Finders ‘R’ Us.  It’s for everyone who started to college expecting to receive their veterans’ benefits and the full amount of grant money they thought they’d receive, only to be shorted because the GI Bill stipend or Voc Rehab stipend counted against you.

Explained.  Many veterans attend college under different circumstances than their peers.  These circumstances can include, but are not limited to, child support payments, daycare expenses, additional transportation, and special housing requirements.

First, with the new GI Bill and Voc Rehab, tuition is likely covered.  Plus you receive a stipend.  When you were applying for college admission, you likely filled out a FAFSA for federal student aid.  From that you likely received some combination of the Pell Grant, SEOG, Stafford Loan, Perkins Loan, etc.  In addition, most colleges have merit scholarships they award incoming freshmen and transfer students.  This is the playing field.

Second, once you are accepted into a college or university, the financial aid office evaluates the circumstances of your attendance and come up with a  “Cost of Attendance.”  Usually, this amount is based on the average circumstances upon which an 18-year-old freshman will find themselves in during the first year.

Expenses ExplainedBreakdown.  Here is the estimated cost of attendance at Northwestern University.  Tuition is obviously fixed, regardless of who pays, as are student fees and books/supplies.  The area of maneuverability is room/board and personal expense.  The latitude a financial aid office has with those two areas depends, in part, on whether or not the school has graduate programs.  The existence of these programs allows the financial aid office to increase these amounts to match those of graduate students.  Graduate students are assumed to have higher expenses than undergraduate students at most colleges.

Example.  Sam attends college under Voc Rehab.  The tuition is cost of attendance is $20,000, including $14,000 for tuition.  He receives a full $5,000 Pell Grant and a scholarship for $10,000.  His Voc Rehab stipend is $700 per month, or $6,300 per 9 months academic year. His disability is also another $700.  So, Sam looks at the numbers and fully expects to receive $15,000 and his Voc Rehab stipend plus disability after all his expenses to be covered by Voc Rehab.  That’s the deal, right?  Wrong. Sam will receive his stipend and none of the other money.

Why? His disability covers the difference between tuition (covered by Voc Rehab) and his living expenses.  The rule stands that any student cannot receive more than their estimated Cost of Attendance from the school’s financial aid office.  Is this a game over?  Certainly not.

If you believe your Cost of Attendance should be higher than the estimate concluded by the finance department, set up a meeting with the finance department, in person, to discuss the matter.  A great number of vets write me that they emailed and made phone calls to the financial aid office without getting results or responses.  It’s important to put in face time with these people.  They will become your “friends” when you need access to cash throughout your college career.

More often than not, you will be able to increase your access to the funds you were initially denied.  While it will likely not be the full amount, you will at least get more free money than you had before.  Always do this if you’ve had an unexpected issue arise.  And that is a win in anyone’s book.

Specific examples. My car broke down and I had to pay $600 in repair bills.  This increased the amount of my personal expenses.

The VA denied paying for a procedure and ER visit that was required and I get stuck with the bill.  This was an unexpected personal expense.  Since adequate healthcare is a requirement at all U.S. colleges and universities, the VA does try to skirt the issue by saying that their services are comprehensive enough to not warrant private party insurance.  If you honestly believe the VA will not provide the level of care the university requires, appeal this issue to the financial aid office.  Numerous deficits within the healthcare of the VA have been well documented and most institutions of higher learning will give additional scholarship money to cover private insurance.

Give it a shot and good luck.

Email me at [email protected] with questions.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I AM CURRENTLY TEMPORARILY 100% DISABLED. I HAVE BEEN APPROVED FOR VRE, I AM A RETIRED MSGT USAF(1995), MBA, AGE 50, SELF EMPLOYED 15+ YEARS, SINGLE PARENT. I LOST MY BUSINESS AND DIVORCED IN THE LAST TWO YEARS. I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND EMPLOYMENT FOR ONE OF THE ABOVE REASONS. I HAVE ASKED THE VR COUNSELOR TO AUTHORIZE ME TO RETRAIN/REINVENT MYSELF THROUGH A ONLINE PHD PROGRAM. I AM NOT ELIGIBLE FOR THE GI BILL OR VEAP. SHE HAS DENIED MY REQUEST100% CLAIMING EMPLOYABILITY BECAUSE OF MY EDUCATION. I HAVE APPILED FOR MORE THAN 100 JOBS WITH NO OFFERS/SUCCESS. I NEED YOUR HELP, PLEASE ADVISE ME ON HOW TO PRESENT MY CASE. THE VRE IS CONTINUING TO CAUSE FINANCIAL HARDSHIP TO ME AND MY DEPENDENTS BY NOT ALLOWING ME TO RETRAIN. I AM CONFUSED, DEPRESSED AND DESPARATE.
    VETERAN IN NEED
    D.SCOTT

    • I definitely empathize and can give some general insight as to what I know about Voc Rehab that is probably causing your problems. Voc Rehab will rarely approve any program that is online. Just mentioning that, much less the PhD, probably stopped your claim cold. The PhD request is even harder to get approved. Imagine combining both?!

      I’ll pass on what I’ve been told by the Voc Rehab. The goal of the program is to get you a job – not to allow you to reinvent yourself. Getting work with a PhD is really not the easiest thing, either, much less from an online program. The PhD is really for people to become college professors or researchers for a company. Otherwise it’s basically pointless, especially if the area of study is the same as your MBA. If your goal wasn’t to gain entry level employment as a professor, then having a PhD makes no sense from a Voc Rehab Counselor’s perspective. It’s also very tough if you have an advanced degree, like an MBA, to even get approval. In extreme cases, it’s always better to lowball the request with the hope of changing it after being deemed “eligible” but before signing the actual training agreement.

      Realistically, go talk with a VSO (veteran service officer) or a lawyer about writing an appeal. The two options are an Administrative Review or a Notice of Disagreement with copies of your job applications. Hand carry it to the office or mail it via certified mail with return receipt.

  2. I just got excepted into Voc Rehab but they are telling me that because i already max out my gibill that if they help me it is only by the grace of God. is this true? I have looked every where and cant find anything that says that i cant get voc rehab after i have used up my gibill.

  3. Freddy,
    I was in the same situation. I had used my G.I. Bill completely but my Voch Rehab counselor was able to reset the numbers like I was starting from day 1. Dont worry they will help if you ask.

  4. Hello Fello Veterans, I am a Navy veteran 1980-1984 and a few months after an honorable discharge I was in an auto accident that left me a paraplegic. I have been enrolled and going to school at the University of Phoenix for three years and now I have filled out the 2011/2012 FASFA for my grant money to be sent to the school and they just told me I will be short like $9,600 for me to finish my bachelors degree and they said my wife and I have made to much money to qualify for any grants past what I have already gotten, and its a loan I got isn’t it, so I am somewhat worried and confused and need some help with advise……please!!! I need help with what’s available out their in regards to grants for a disabled man who is a veteran. I am a junior at UOP and have a 3.47 GPA., so if yo can Please Help me I really don’t have the out of pocket money they are requesting me to pay. Thanks Rick

  5. D.Scott,

    Here is a shot you can try, you still should apply for benefit determination via The “Von App” website of not done already, talk to a DVOP at your local career center, talk to a VSO and then arm with facts … tell your VRE counselor that, “I cannot find gainful employment with my current skill set, educational credentials with in the current job market” … you will get a lot of hemmmsss and hhaaaasss … but stick yo your guns, the VRE counselor will give you alternatives because they will have to submit paperwork and GS 11’s do not like more paperwork … it should get approved. You can also Support your request with local job market in
    formation from the DVOP
    / LVER at the DOL … only a LVER id no DVOP on staff or

  6. On O-net-online website will give you valid job market data … good luck in your pursuit Scott

    1SG (RET.) G. STILES,
    US ARMY
    DVOP – Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist

  7. CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS: It will be a combination of skill sets, disability, local job market, and saturation of your degree in that market … take a list of jobs you have applied to … employers have to be careful with DVETS … Your DVOP maybe able to find money for college too … and can definitely find you a short term income stream … excuse typos and brevity since I am on my cell phone … get online, and keep current on your benefits because the laws are always changing … good luck brother, all set backs are temporary and your DVOP is your partner in this and can be a great resource and help you tie it all up … google: NVTI National DVOP locator and you can get the name, phone, address physical and email from that site … I am 90% service combat connected and it is the only reason I get out of bed and go to work helping DVETS as jacked up as me, if I couldn’t continue to help my fellow brothers and sisters in arms, I would stay at home and watch netflixs all day. The FEDS give each state a grant to hire DVOPs / LVERs so get out there and take advantage of their help or the FEDS will kill the contact and we will all have to talk to a wagner pizer career counselor who will not be as smart on vet benefits like a fellow veteran … just saying, I am going to be a DVOP for only another 2 years .. health going down hill myself, lost 38lbs, in three weeks, so I feel for you .. and know what its like. God speed.

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