DENVER - For four years Gabriela Galindo served her country as a United States marine. Now she is trying to earn a four year degree at Metropolitan State University of Denver utilizing GI Bill benefits. She is one of nearly 850 students at the university who may now not receive those benefits as a result of the prolonged federal government shutdown.
"It is pretty tough. I know of a few people that are not going to be able to pay their bills this month," Galindo said.
The GI Bill program was created in 1944 to give World War II veterans the opportunity to get a college degree. It offers veterans payments that can be used for tuition, costs associated with attending school and housing.
"We have about 850 students who are currently receiving VA benefits," said Judi Diaz Bonacquisti, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Services at MSU Denver.
In advance of the federal government shutdown MSU Denver developed a plan to help students impacted by loss of VA payments.
"It is kind of hope for the best, but plan for the worst. We have some folks that have developed resource lists that may help students identify places where they can access resources like food," Bonacquisti said.
In addition to carrying 15 credit hours Galindo works in the university's Veteran's Education Benefits Office. She assists veterans as they go through the process of applying for GI Bill benefits. In the wake of the federal government shutdown Galindo has been the bearer of bad news for other veterans.
"I have to break the news to them that they can't get it and a lot of us rely on that income to pay our bills, to pay our rent, to support our families - and to all of a sudden not have that is very difficult," Galindo said.
That difficult situation will get worse for veterans if the stalemate in Washington is not resolved soon.
"If the federal government can't come to some terms with these issues in the next couple of days the students who are expecting benefits to be paid November 1 will not have those benefits dispersed," Bonacquisti said.
Registration for the spring semester at MSU Denver is slated to begin in three weeks. If the government shutdown has not been resolved the university plans to allow veterans to register for spring semester classes. The university will hold the veterans harmless and defer payment until the federal government shutdown is resolved and GI Bill benefit payments resume.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)