Thousands of Student Veterans Underpaid in GI Bill Benefits for Months
Veterans attempting to pursue an education received checks used for tuition and housing late because in 2018 the Department of Veterans Affairs said it’s still using a 50-year-old computer system, and problems arose when attempting to add new commands. Yet, the agency wasn’t willing to retroactively pay veterans until it faced backlash.
After pressure from members of Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs did an about-face and announced that it would pay veterans the full amount of benefits they are due under the Forever GI Bill a major expansion of veterans’ education benefits that Congress passed last year.
Veterans Affairs officials privately told congressional staffers on Wednesday that they would not retroactively pay veterans whose checks were less than they were owed. But as backlash mounted, the VA said on Thursday it would fully compensate the veterans.
Veterans like Shaye Washington felt this error while struggling to pay for housing and tuition. Washington told CBS News that the VA had not given her $7,000 she was expecting, including $3,000 that she needed for tuition.
“The GI Bill is something we worked for. I’ve been deployed and been to wars, so I feel like I shouldn’t have to stress over something that I worked for and risked my life for,” Washington said.
Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, slammed the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday.
“Seriously America can’t pay its veterans because it’s using a 50-year-old computer” Noah said. “When it comes to going to war, America always finds the money But when the soldiers get home, America is all of the sudden like, ‘Yeah, we can’t pay you. Our computers are running Windows B.C., so sorry.'”
To amend the problem, the VA originally ordered for veterans to be reimbursed under the old rate of pay.
Paul Lawrence, the VA Under Secretary for Benefits, questioned if it was worth the work involved to calculate the new rate of pay.
“It’s not our intention to harm veterans, but we also have to think about the broad veteran population and whether what you’re describing yields any benefits, just work,” Lawrence told Congress on Thursday morning.
Just hours later, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie backtracked and said veterans would receive back payments under the new rates as required by law.
“To clear up any confusion, I want to make clear that each and every post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary will be made 100 percent whole retroactively if need be for their housing benefits for this academic year based on Forever GI Bill rates, not on post-9/11 GI Bill rates,” Wilkie said in a statement.
Lawmakers are calling for an investigation in the continuing issues in paying student veterans the benefits.
“Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and John Boozman, R-Ark., along with five Democratic and three Republican senators and one Democratic congressman, signed the letter requesting the inspector general look into allegations that VA did not intend to reimburse veterans ‘for missed or underpaid benefits’ related to the Forever GI Bill,” according to NBC News.