The Veterans Resource Center debunks the education benefit fallacy

COLUMBUS, Gal. A veterans group in East Alabama is debunking the stories of veterans and their families, all while offering money to help with college expenses.

The Auburn Resources Veterans Center, subject matter experts told News Leader 9, money is available for college veterans, certain stipulations must be met first. According to the director of the group, Puck Esposito, many fallacies surround military and educational benefits.

“Being delusional, everything is covered up, and it’s not true.” Esposito said. “We watched one of our veteran students sleep here for a few hours a day, because that’s all he could get. He was going to class all day and then to a local restaurant at night between midnight and no six just to make money to make sure his family was covered.

Those are the kinds of stories, so the money to help student veterans with the costs isn’t covered by the benefits, Esposito said. One of those fundraisers is the literature gala every year. According to program and service specialist Curtis Pipen, in order to spend the money, all students have to do is answer questions.

“We get the team together, we look at the plan and all the answers and we choose the 10th amount, based on how much money I’ve contributed that year, the 10th amount of students to get to those schools,” Pipen said. “The purpose of this is to help them in whatever educational goals they have. We’re looking at what struggles they’re experiencing. We’re looking at the kind of positives they’re using this money for. At the end of the day, we want to contribute to their educational journey. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re asking for.

The gala will be next Thursday, November 10th. According to Pipen, this year they plan to give away $7,000 in scholarship money.

Kristen Carlsson, coordinator of veteran resources, explained what benefits are available at the federal and state level.

So there are two types of benefits.

There are federal benefits that come straight from the big VA and then state benefits that come from the Alabama State Department.

“Yes, to our state, we have the Gap, the National Guard’s training aid program, which includes up to $5,687 per semester. It is the last use of the payer and can only pay tuition and fees. And so we know, we’ve got everything we’re building, and then we’re going to take away the Pell Grant money, the manufacturing, all that stuff. We can build for them,” said Carlsson. There is also an Alabama GI dependent scholarship. These are veterans’ customers. Veterans must have at least a 40% disability rating and must be residents of Alabama. That works out to about $240 an hour. Also as a last minute payment to customers and gives a benefit to clients, even about $1,000 a semester goes to the books. We have a chapter of 1606 Are the Montgomery GI, Bibl. It pays as a monthly housing stipend from about $300 a year to $1000 per month. They make a kind of contract when they serve. We have a chapter 35 Supportive training program for clients, which is also only a monthly housing payment.

They all say that although there are many resources there, more could be done.

“We still have a lot of work to do, and even with what we do here, it’s never enough.”

The office encourages people considering military service to ask recruits tough questions, such as how much time you have to serve to qualify for any benefits you may be eligible for. They say you can give them the direction of the call.

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