Nov 29 2018
WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR)—Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies—released the following statement regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) plans to compensate Forever GI Bill beneficiaries who were underpaid:
“When I brought the issue of GI Bill underpayments up to Secretary Wilkie during a hearing in September, he acknowledged the VA’s error and promised that all affected recipients would be compensated. When recent news reports suggested the VA was not acting to help veterans who have been shortchanged, the department outlined its plans to remedy the situation. Those plans fall short. These veterans must be fully repaid for errors they did not cause and that is what I expect the VA to do.”
In August, when new housing rates took effect, the VA’s IT system had not been updated causing it to underpay some beneficiaries for their housing and placing unnecessary burdens on students. GI Bill recipients should have received housing stipends based on Department of Defense’s 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing rates which should have been calculated based on the zip code where the student takes the majority of classes, rather than on the zip code in which the school’s main campus is located. Instead, GI Bill recipients have been receiving housing stipends at the 2017 rate and based on the school’s zip code. In all cases, the 2018 rate is higher than the 2017 rate.
Boozman—who, along with serving as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the VA is also a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee—pressed VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on this issue during a September hearing where he secured a promise that all eligible recipients who were underpaid will be paid in full.
Today, the VA released a statement attempting to clarify its intent to fully reimburse GI Bill recipients who have been underpaid since August. However, the plan outlined in the VA statement is insufficient. The statement indicates that the repayment rate will continue to be based on the location of the school’s main campus, rather than the physical location of the student’s classes. Additionally, the statement leaves a question about which academic year will be used for the purposes of determining the reimbursement rate.