Over the past few months, student veterans from around the nation have spoken out, stating that they received incorrect GI Bill benefit payments. Some of those affected were forced into debt. Initially, Department of Veterans Affairs officials asserted that those who were given less than they were owed would be reimbursed. Now, the agency may be singing a different tune.
The issue of insufficient payments was said to be caused by computer issues. The problems resulted in some student veterans receiving less than they were owed while others experienced payment delays.
On Wednesday, according to a report by NBC News, two committee aides said that the VA informed congressional staffers that student veterans who received payments short of what they were owed would not be reimbursed.
The news conflicts with an earlier promise made by the VA to the House committee, where the agency said that reimbursements would be issued.
According to the unnamed aides, the VA stated that retroactive payments would require an audit of previous education claims. If an audit took place, future claims would be delayed, so the VA decided not to provide the reimbursements.
One aide said that, if the required audit was conducted as a means of issuing reimbursements, approximately 2 million educational claims would have to be inspected.
Some veteran students experienced significant financial hardship over the payments issues, which stemmed from changes in housing allowance calculations under the Forever GI Bill, legislation that President Donald Trump signed into law back in July 2017.
When the computers failed to process the change, a claims backlog three times higher than normal was the result. As a means of addressing the issue, the VA announced that Forever GI Bill housing allowance updates would be delayed until December 2019, though did initially promise retroactive payments for those who received an incorrect amount.
However, they have since changed their position, saying that they will not send retroactive payments to the underpaid. Additionally, the VA asserted, during their phone call with the congressional staffers, that there was legal justification for delaying when the change would go into effect.
That justification was not shared.
“They are essentially going to ignore the law and say that that change only goes forward from Dec. 2019,” said one of the aides.
Until December 2019, the older Basic Housing Allowance rates will be in effect.