Bill to Ensure Underpaid Vets are Reimbursed Heads to PresidentDecember 20, 2018, 11:23 AM HST (Updated December 20, 2018, 11:23 AM)
Congress is sending President Trump legislation to sign into law that would to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits. The Senate and House passed the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act, legislation authored by U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and John Boozman (R-Ark.) to hold VA accountable for its failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by the Forever GI Bill.
“For many student veterans, every dime counts,” said Sen. Schatz, the lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. “That’s why the VA needs to get this right and pay student veterans the full amount of money they were promised. I’m glad this bill will soon become law, so we can make this right for our veterans.”
“This legislative step is important to fulfilling the commitment we made to veterans,” said Senator Boozman, Chairman on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. “There’s simply no excuse for failing to fully deliver the housing benefits that student veterans are owed, which is why it was necessary to directly confront the VA’s errors and use our oversight to make certain they do not go uncorrected. I’m pleased this bill moved through Congress swiftly and look forward to the president signing it into law.”
The VA should have used the 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, some 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.
The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).
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.