After serving in the Army for four years, including a 14-month tour in Iraq, Neal Stolz is attending the University of Colorado with financial help from the GI Bill.

But as the government shutdown drags on, Stolz may soon have to worry about how to pay for simple things like groceries, rent and books.

Stolz, a 31-year-old aerospace engineering junior, and other veterans on the Boulder campus are worried about how they'll pay the bills if the government shutdown continues into late October.

"Right now I'm thinking we're all going to have a rude awakening come the first (of November)," he said. "It's a frustrating situation all around."

Nov. 1 is when he and thousands of other veterans should receive a monthly check for housing and books as part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides financial support for things like education and housing for individuals who served in the military after Sept. 10, 2001. If the shutdown continues, Stolz will need to quickly find cash to pay his bills.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki explained last week how dire the situation would be for all veterans, dependents and survivors if the shutdown continues.

"If the shutdown does not end in the coming weeks, VA will not be able to ensure delivery of Nov. 1 checks to more than 5.18 million beneficiaries," he said before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs last Wednesday. "Tuition and stipends for over 500,000 veteran service members and eligible family members and education programs will also stop."

'They depend on it'

That number includes roughly 700 veterans and dependents receiving benefits at CU, said George Ballinger, director of the campus's Office of Veteran Services.

Payments, which vary from student to student but often are more than $1,000, go out to veterans at the beginning of each month. Though many student veterans have jobs while going to school, some don't, Ballinger said.

Some student veterans with families also use the monthly checks to help pay for things like child care and other bills, he said.

"These guys are worried because they depend on it a great deal," he said. "A lot of them, that monthly allowance is the only cash flow they have. It's designed to provide them the cash they need to go to school. With no one being able to tell them when that might run out, it sure concerns them a great deal."

Ballinger said the Department of Veteran Affairs pays tuition directly to the university, most often at the beginning of the semester, so many student veterans aren't concerned about paying for tuition. If tuition becomes a problem, university spokeswoman Malinda Miller-Huey said administrators intend to work with students affected by the shutdown on a case-by-case basis.

Veterans with disabilities also will lose their benefits if the shutdown continues, said Ben Purser, president of CU's Student Veterans Association.

'That would be tragic'

Purser said he's worried that when benefits are suspended, some student veterans might decide that school isn't worth their time.

"The combat-to-classroom shift is not easy," Pursuer said. "Fortunately most of our veterans are not those at the edge of society, but they are men and women with other opportunities. Convincing someone to stay in school when they already have a family and work experience is not always easy. This shutdown might help some decide they don't need school. That would be tragic."

Purser said he and other student veterans are frustrated that lawmakers didn't create stopgap measures for Veteran Affairs benefits like they did with military pay in the Pay Our Military Act.

CU Veteran Services program manager Stewart Elliott said a dozen or so students have asked him what the shutdown could mean for them, and he's assured them that there are scholarships, financial aid and loans available if they need financial assistance.

But, Elliott said, he doesn't think the government shutdown will continue much longer.

"I'm a professional optimist," he said. "They're going to resolve this issue long before November."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106, or