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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Government shutdown costs veteran students

The government shutdown last fall ended after a little more than two weeks, but one particular result of it caused an incident most veteran students at NMU aren’t likely to forget.

 The shutdown, which lasted from September 30 to October 17, prevented a number of checks from being sent out. According to Katerina Klawes, ASNMU president and junior secondary English education and theatre major, once the government opened up again, the checks began moving and a number of students were charged at least $300 worth of late fees from the university.

“I felt pretty frustrated,” Frank Lombard, Army veteran and senior social work major, said. “I would say it was educational because as a social worker I’m looking for ways to improve social services and NMU is a prime example of an organization that has great intentions but lacks adequate communication.”

Klawes felt similar shock regarding the incident upon hearing about it.

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“I was in disbelief,” Klawes said. “I couldn’t imagine that such problems were happening to the veteran population that hasn’t been brought to light earlier.”

Lombard and Klawes met several times over the summer to discuss some of the problems that veterans face and brainstorm ideas to resolve these issues. Some things the two parties agreed upon were raising awareness about the issues.

“The information wasn’t published as far as I could see,” Lombard said. “I found out about it through word of mouth. There may have been emails addressing it in the past, but I didn’t see any real advocacy-related efforts addressing the hardship that this caused.”

Klawes only heard about the issue during one of her meetings with Lombard.

“There was a meeting where a large number of the problems discussed were related to veterans,” Klawes said. “I had never heard this before, and I didn’t know it was the tip of the iceberg.”

However, the Veteran Student Services (VSS) has a different opinion of the matter. The VSS responsibility is to certify a veteran’s enrollment into the Veterans Administration (VA).

The VA offers GI Bill education benefits, used to help veterans pay for school, as long as they apply for one and show proper documentation. They also review the student’s class schedule and degree evaluation and then report if the student is qualified for enrollment. According to VSS, they did not believe any response was necessary.

Ginny MacDonald, a financial aid representative for veteran student services explained her viewpoint.

“Regarding the government shutdown of October 1-16, 2013, we are not aware of any NMU students whose GI Bill education benefits were adversely affected by the shutdown,” MacDonald said.

“We monitored the situation closely and kept in contact with the university administration and students receiving GI Bill education benefits. Should the need have arisen, we were developing plans to help students who might have been affected. Ultimately, none of those measures were necessary.”

However, Lombard has said that a number of veterans were disappointed with how this problem was handled.

“I have met several veterans who were displeased with late payments from the VA and even more disappointed with the fees incurred as a result of benefits arriving late,” Lombard said.

Lombard also said dependents should take personal responsibility for “federal government delinquency” and felt that if NMU charges a fee for late payments they should bill the federal government or wait until the end of the semester to demand payment.

Klawes said she has created an action plan to try and help out veterans, including sharing veteran student feedback she gathered over the summer with President Erickson.

Additionally, she met with departments on campus, such as the criminal justice department, who were dealing with these problems to inquire about the origin of the issues.

In order to try and help prevent more of these problems, Lombard has been gathering feedback from veterans, service members and dependents attending NMU.

“I’ve been trying to facilitate the Veteran’s Support team into groups such as ROTC and student government,” Lombard said.

Financial Aid representative MacDonald is also making an effort to help.

“I can, with a great deal of confidence, tell you that if any sort of error is discovered, every effort is made to resolve it promptly with as little negative impact to the student as possible,” MacDonald said.

Klawes expressed that her ultimate goal is to create a veterans advocate office. This office would be able to direct veterans to resources and help mitigate any issues that arise regarding the students veteran status.

She said she plans on proposing this idea to the Board of Trustees this September.

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