The University of Montana is asking landlords, day care providers and creditors across Missoula to be patient with possible late payments from student veterans as Congress and the president race to end the 16-day partial government shutdown.
Student veterans at UM fear their military benefits will not arrive from the Department of Veterans Affairs on time, resulting in missed rental payments, late day care bills and other setbacks associated with living expenses.
Len Leibinger, director of Veteran Education and Transition Services, said the university is doing what it can to lessen the pain for its 562 student veterans who have served, or continue to serve, in the military.
“We’ve put in place some contingency plans at the school to try and mitigate some of the financial crises the vets are facing,” said Leibinger. “Hopefully, we can survive if they don’t get it together back in D.C. and keep people in school. There’s going to be a lot of other veteran folks – dependents and widows – who won’t be so fortunate.”
Earlier this week, the Associated Students of the University of Montana voted to approve one-time loans to student veterans for $500. The 60-day loans carry no interest and are available to all UM veterans and their dependents.
UM President Royce Engstrom said the university also is allowing vets and their dependents to register for classes without restrictions. The school has directed employees from Business Services to help students who receive VA benefits finalize their spring registration.
“It’s unfortunate this impasse at the federal level may affect our veteran students, who served their country faithfully and well and now want to use their educational benefits,” Engstrom said.
Engstrom said the university will provide financial literacy counseling and help veterans explore additional funding sources through its Office of Student Success.
The school also will provide veterans and their dependents with a letter from the university asking landlords, day care providers and other creditors to be patient with possible late payments.
“VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has testified before Congress and told them what sort of impacts we’re looking at, what sort of issues veterans are facing,” said Leibinger. “The message is out there – it was listened to – but whether it was heard or not, we don’t know.”