Oklahoma veterans struggle as they wait for late GI Bill checks

EDMOND, Okla-  Thousands of veterans leave the armed services every year and go back to school as part of the GI Bill. Lately, some of those vets haven't been getting their payments on time, making it hard for some to pay rent or even buy food.

"Pretty frustrating," said Mitchell James, a former Marine, talking about his late GI Bill checks. "It took me three months to get my first payment from the VA."

The current UCO student is being affected by a national military computer issue that has some 450,000 veterans waiting weeks, even months, for their checks.

"Luckily, I had a dad that was very supportive and he helped me with rent and some food," said James.

Typically, veterans can receive checks between $1,300 and $2,600.

When he didn't receive his payment, James says he called Veteran's Affairs to see what was causing the problem.

"What happens if they are going to be kicked out or being homeless?' And he said, 'We're doing the best we can,' and that's all he could say. I have a lot of empathy for people that are struggling with it," said James.

Fortunately, James has a strong veteran's office at the University of Central Oklahoma who can help.

"There is always someone here that can assist them when they come in," said Kennan Horn, with UCO's Veteran's Programming.

The retired lieutenant colonel says they have more than 1,000 military-connected students on campus. In all, they say 700 are tied to the GI Bill, but fewer than 100 have been affected by the slow pay of the VA.

"We're happy that we are not having to adjust for that many students, dozens are manageable for us," said Horn.

Horn says there are interest-free loans and a program called 'Bronchos Helping Bronchos' that have been used to cover the financial problems caused by the late checks

"It's a pain but GI's, they are no strangers to pain. It is a special population and one that we want to step up to when Uncle Sam fails them," said Horn.

As for James, he is happy the school and his family were there for him, but he is worried about his fellow vets.

"I just still feel bad for some guys that don`t have that help, and I don`t know what happens to them," said James.

There are rumors among veterans that a computer program switch in Washington is to blame for the late payments, but that hasn't been confirmed by News 4.

Our calls to the Federal VA regional office in Muskogee have not been returned.