Bipartisan Bill to Reimburse Veterans’ GI Bill Benefits Passes Senate
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Andy Barr (KY-06)’s bipartisan legislation to hold the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable and ensure timely reimbursement for veterans who were underpaid or faced delays in receiving their Forever GI bill housing benefits, passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act would require the VA to assess how many veterans were impacted, establish a plan to correct late and underpaid stipends, improve congressional oversight, and set a deadline for correcting these errors. Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. Senate, which now heads to the House for consideration.
Rep. Gabbard, Founder and Co-Chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus said: “For months, problems at the VA causing delays or inaccurate Forever GI bill payments for hundreds of thousands of our nation’s veterans have caused great stress and hardship on them and their families. Our veterans shouldn’t suffer because of bureaucratic red tape and incompetence. Our bipartisan legislation will hold the VA accountable, correct these egregious errors, and ensure our brothers and sisters in arms receive the benefits they’ve earned.”
“The Forever GI Bill provides housing benefits to hundreds of thousands of active military, reservists, and veterans as they pursue higher education,” said Congressman Barr. “The VA must be held accountable for properly implementing the law and administering the Forever GI Bill in accordance with Congressional intent. Our nation’s veterans deserve better than to be faced with inaccurate, late payments. This legislation will remedy an undue hardship placed on veteran students and provide oversight and accountability to ensure these payments are made in a timely manner. I want to thank my colleague Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for supporting this legislation and I look forward to its swift passage to provide relief and certainty to our veterans.”
The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act would require the VA to:
- End improper payments as soon as possible;
- Establish a team of specialists who will be responsible to report to Congress a detailed plan to correct this egregious error;
- Provide a report to Congress by July 2020 that identifies how many beneficiaries were impacted and to what extent, aggregated by state; and
- Certify the department is fully compliant with the law.
Last week, Rep. Gabbard joined veterans service organizations at a press conference in advocating for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fully repay every veteran who faced inaccurate and late GI bill payments, treating burn pits, taking care of the nation’s female veterans, addressing high veterans suicide rates, and more. The congresswoman joined her veteran colleagues in urging VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to immediately address the technical problems contributing to the delays of payments affecting the educational pursuits, housing, financial security, and emotional well-being of veterans and their families. The congresswoman has also championed the Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671), with the support of 147 cosponsors and 25 military service organizations (MSOs) and veterans service organizations (VSOs), that would ensure the evaluation the exposure of U.S. servicemembers to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals. She has also pushed for the Deborah Sampson Act (H.R. 2452) to improve access and quality of care at the Department of Veterans Affairs for female veterans.