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Nearly 600 student veterans impacted by government shutdown

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Oct 15 2013 10:40:29 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

The government shutdown is impacting nearly 600 student veterans attending the University of Montana and their families.

NBC Montana found out student veterans’ tuition is solidified until the end of the semester, but many wonder how they'll get by without their monthly stipend or BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) check.

We spent the afternoon digging into student veteran concerns and what the university is doing to help them.

Clay Skeens, president of the University of Montana’s Student Veterans Association tells us questions like ‘Am I going to be able to pay my rent?’ and ‘Am I going to be able to feed myself?’ are being asked by many student veterans. 

Skeens tells us the major concern for many student veterans right now is whether they will be receiving their monthly stipend. 

“The stipend is food, it’s rent and it’s peace of mind that they know they're going to be able to stay afloat until next month,” Skeens says. 

Marine Corps veteran Tony Lin works in UM’s veterans office and he tells us the phones are ringing off the hook.

“Almost every call we've gotten in the past week or two, because of the government shutdown, has been involving either tuition getting paid or the monthly stipend,” Lin says. 

The university is doing what it can to help the veterans.

Veterans and their dependents can register and stay in classes without any restrictions and UM will be issuing letters that veterans can take to their landlords, utility managers and creditors asking them to be understanding of late payments.

The student group ASUM is also offering vets a one-time $500 loan with no interest for 60 days.

“I know personally I don't want to see my landlord come up to me and say, 'You didn't pay, get out,’” says Skeens. 

For Skeens, knowing veterans will receive back-pay after the government reopens is semi-comforting, but for now he says he doesn't want to see vets dropping out of school because they can't pay their bills.

“If it gets far enough into it, we’re going to outreach into the community and say ‘Hey, please bear with it and don't kick your veterans out of their homes,’” he says. 

Skeens says veterans in need must pull together.

“You can come to the vets office, you can sit down and have a conversation and you can decompress, because a lot of times that's all it takes for a veteran, to know there's other folks  that are here to help you,” says Skeens. 

Veteran advocates say if you are a student veteran and you have questions about enrollment, tuition or benefits to give them a call at their office -- the number is 243-2744.

If you are a student veteran looking for more information about university support, click here