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Those processors will be working in the back end of things until an automated system comes online this fall. But vets won't even notice the change, the VA promises. They'll apply for the new benefits the same way they applied for the old ones—at gibill.va.gov. "That process won't change," Wilson says. "The only change is in the internal processes the VA uses."
The VA hopes to issue the final state tuition numbers soon—a scheme "way more complex than what we've had in the past," Wilson says—and plans to send out two GI Bill–related direct mailings, the first to qualified veterans and the second to active duty personnel. Wilson expects more than 2 million vets will receive a mailing. The agency is also working with private corporations to help get the word out. Anyone still confused can contact the VA's national call center (888-GI-BILL-1).The IAVA has also set up a website where veterans can get answers: gibill2008.org.
CUNY, which has 1,700 veteran students, is also gearing up for August. "We're having a lot of interaction with [veteran students]," says Wilfred Cotto, director of veterans' affairs at CUNY. For example, a session at the second annual CUNY Student Veterans Conference, to be held in April at Medgar Evers College, will be devoted entirely to the new benefits. CUNY is trying to be proactive, Cotto says. "We understand that there are going to be questions."
Some veterans are optimistic that over the next five months, questions will get answered and preparations will be made to ensure the changeover goes smoothly.
"We're talking about 400,000 people," says the IAVA's Campbell about the number of veterans who may take advantage of the new GI Bill. "In World War II, they were able to do it for 4 million people."
Gomez, though, is more wary: "We'd all like a smooth transition," he says. "But I'm not expecting it. I'm expecting it to struggle when it starts."l