The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 20, 2008

Vets: Still waiting on benefits

The three soldiers served in Iraq as part of a nearly two-year deployment.

They believe they and their fellow Minnesota National Guard soldiers served well.

And — speaking on the fifth anniversary of the start of the war — they really wish they could get the G.I. Bill payments they were promised.

The three National Guard sergeants, all Minnesota State University students, spoke at a veterans roundtable about their frustration with the delays in the payments owed to them, about the uncertainty about when the next deployment might come and about the complexity and communication problems rampant in the Veterans Affairs system.

“I’m the sole provider for my family. My wife stays home with our son,” said Ryan Marti of St. Peter, who’s still awaiting his G.I. educational benefit as he starts his second semester of the school year. “Not only am I waiting, I’m waiting to pay the rent, I’m waiting to pay for gas, insurance. ... food, diapers. So I’m taking out more loans.”

Marti was joined by his wife, Marianne, who he married shortly before his deployment to Iraq.

“It’s tough to stay positive and look at the V.A. in a good light when it takes that long to process,” Marti said “... It’ll be really nice when it comes.”

The student/soldiers were speaking to Congressman Tim Walz, a retired National Guard soldier, as part of a discussion sponsored by USAction, a progressive political group that opposes the Iraq war while advocating for support for veterans.

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