Program works to regain funding

Some SIU veterans have seen the loss of a grant affect the services available to them.

The Veterans Cash Grant has been awarded to the university’s Veterans Program since 2006, but the Department of Veteran Affairs did not approve the program’s request for funding this semester.

The grant assists veterans and their immediate family members by aiding health insurance costs, long-term care, post-traumatic stress disorder research or treatment, disability benefits and housing assistance, according to the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs website.

The funding amount varied over the five years SIU received it, said Rod Santulan, coordinator of Veterans Services. He said it has provided more than $100,000 to SIU some years, while it totaled close to $70,000 in others.

The department declined the university’s request because there has been past non-compliance and a high turnover rate of the staff that oversees the grant, according to the letter sent from Kevin Cavanaugh, the IDVA grant administrator. He said these issues caused concern for the department.

Cavanaugh said in the letter that representatives from SIU’s program should apply again when there is stability with the staff and a complete plan is in place.

Santulan said he is working hard to get the grant back in the spring for the students and hopes to receive a decision from the Department of Veteran Affairs within the next couple of weeks.

Veterans involved in the program said the grant’s absence   has affected several students.

“I used to be able to go to counseling for free to deal with issues from when I was overseas, but I cannot afford it anymore,” said Ryan McKennedy, a senior from Rochester studying psychology and an Army veteran.

Mark Trumbull, a senior from Rockford studying history and a Navy veteran, said this semester’s grant loss has caused even more financial stress on the veterans.

“Illinois veterans are often receiving inaccurate information on their benefits, which can cause them to lose out on significant financial resources, depending on what degree path and GI Bill option they choose,” Trumbull said.

The GI Bill is a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans, commonly known as GIs’ Benefits. The benefits include low-cost mortgages, loans to start a business or farm, cash payments of tuition and living expenses for college, high school or vocational education and one year of unemployment compensation.

The bill was available to every veteran who was on active duty during war years for at least 90 days and was not dishonorably discharged. Since its original 1944 conditions, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well.

Peter Gitau, associate vice chancellor of student life and intercultural relations, said the grant has always been helpful to provide money for veteran services and their families.

 

“The main reason we did not receive the grant is because when we requested the funds, we did not have a coordinator, and they decided we needed to have a coordinator in place before they would approve the request,” Gitau said.

Veterans Services did not have a coordinator for about seven months before Santulan was hired in July, Gitau said. He said Rita VanPelt, assistant director for Disability Support Services, sent the request for the fall semester grant during the spring and it was denied in July.

Gitau said the program should be in good shape to receive money for the spring semester.

“The granting procedures are very clear,” Gitau said. “We’ve never had a problem receiving the grant before. We met the conditions they required of us and we’re fortunate we could resubmit an application.”

Santulan said he is requesting $99,000 for the spring semester.

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