NAICU Washington Update

VA Told to Fix GI Bill Payment Problems

December 21, 2018

On December 20, Congress gave its final approval to S. 3777, a bill requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a “Tiger Team” to address the difficulties it has had in implementing the new payments for veterans in the Forever GI Bill.
With no funding attached to the bill, it is mostly symbolic. The bill directs the VA to immediately fix what has become a huge financial problem for many veterans trying to attend college this fall, and will no doubt cause problems for the upcoming spring enrollment and registration. The bill has a deadline of three months from enactment for a solution.

The Forever GI Bill, enacted in the summer of 2017, expanded GI housing and educational benefits, and changed the way housing benefits are calculated.  However the IT system at VA could not adequately handle the new requirement to calculate the benefit based on where the veteran takes the majority of classes, rather than on where the veteran lives.  This left hundreds of thousands of veterans with the wrong, and sometimes no, housing allowance.  This meant those veterans were unable to pay rent or room and board while in school.  Evidence of the problem arose in the summer of 2018, at the high mark of when student veterans were starting the fall 2018 semester.
After Thanksgiving, the VA indicated the roster of outstanding claims was still in the tens of thousands, but that there is no fix in place that will remedy the system for the upcoming spring semester registration. Congress wants this corrected immediately.
It appears colleges and universities have been patient with the technical difficulties at VA and have been accommodating veteran students on a case-by-case basis, depending on what they need.  Among the steps being taken are provisions for temporary housing, or manually overriding enrollment and registration problems so they can stay in school. 
While Congress is requiring the problem be fixed by March 2019, the legislation contains no real solution, and no funds.  The bill also requires the VA to report to Congress by December 2019 on what happened and how the problem was solved.

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