Veterans unable to use benefits for professional pilot degree

Julia Martinez, Online Editor

For the time being, veterans utilizing their GI Bill will not be able to use their benefits toward Central’s professional pilot degree.

Central plans to appeal through the Department of Veterans Affairs as soon as IASCO Flight Training (IFT) confirms their contract with the university, Linda Schactler, public affairs director, said.

Schactler hopes the contract will be finalized in the next couple of days.

“When we know that that’s actually who will be providing the service, then we will move forward with the appeal process,” Schactler said.

When the contract was awarded to IFT in April, Central had to submit an application to the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) and State Approving Agency (SAA) for approval of their flight program with the new contractor.

Laura Bach, associate director of the SAA, said the particular program with the new flight provider did not meet the criteria of the law.

“The Student Achievement Council isn’t rejecting the program, we’re just saying that eligible veterans may not be certified in that program,” Bach said.

According to the university’s attorney general, the university is the only one that needs to hold approval, not the flight school itself.

The WSAC determined that only the aviation management degree was approved, not the professional pilot degree. This maintains that the flight school needs to have the certification in order to allow veterans to use their GI benefits.

“In the meantime, they have disapproved the professional pilot program and only approved the management program until the outcome of that appeal,” Hoover said.

There were only four veterans who were affected, two of whom were able to switch into the management major, Hoover said. Veterans were advised to head to the CWU-Moses Lake campus to ensure full benefits. Hoover said that a couple of veterans decided to switch campuses.

The CWU-Moses Lake campus, located on the Big Bend Community College campus, has a flight school that is approved for the professional pilot degree.

For Samuel James, junior aviation management major and senior airman in the Air Force Reserves, switching tracks wasn’t an inconvenience, simply a change in forms to the aviation department and veteran’s affairs office.

“I’ll be flying as an elective, and taking classes that count toward both the flight management and flight officer tracks,” James said.

James enlisted in March of 2012 and works as an air transportation apprentice, loading cargo on and off the aircraft.

“My interest in aviation was cemented when I was 11 and decided to join Civil Air Patrol instead of Boy Scouts,” James said. He has been told that there is a strong case to get the SAA’s decision overturned, and he plans to switch majors when the appeal process is complete.

Since James is in the reserves, he only receives a portion of veteran’s benefits. There are only two other students, in addition to James, who will be receiving assistance from the university with flight lab costs. The GI Bill would usually cover these costs.

“I think what Central is going to do is work with our federal delegation, Senator [Patty] Murray, a strong advocate for benefits, Congressman [Dave] Reichert and [Maria] Cantwell,” Schactler said.

The WSAC is funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve or reject flight schools to receive benefits. Veterans can only use their benefits at flight schools that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies under Part 141, which is the set of federal regulations that govern pilot schools.

“We’ve had a great partnership with them in the past so we’ll work with them and go as quickly as we can,” Schactler said.