VA Changes Course on GI Bill Benefits, Decides to Repay Veterans in Full
Jan 15, 2019
Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) January 15, 2019 – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary assured veterans they will be reimbursed in full for delayed payments of GI Bill benefits amid several days of confusion and mixed messages from the agency.
VA officials told House Committee on Veterans Affairs staffers on November 28 that retroactively repaying veterans under new rates would require an audit of around two million prior claims. They said the process could result in additional delays.
“The VA is complicating what should be a straightforward matter — paying veterans what they are owed,” commented Florida veterans lawyer David W. Magann. “The agency has a legal duty to follow through on the stipulations of the Forever GI Bill that was passed last year. It may be costly and time-consuming to correct the payments, but that should not be a reason to dismiss the law or leave veterans struggling financially.”
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s decision on November 29 overruled the testimony of VA Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence. Lawrence told the committee that the large amount of work needed to retroactively adjust benefit claims would not be worth it. As a result, the VA was unlikely to reimburse veterans using the new rates when they take effect in December 2019.
Just hours later, Wilkie backtracked and said the agency would make the extra effort to ensure veterans are repaid the correct amounts under the updated rates as required by federal law. He said in a statement, “Each and every beneficiary will receive retroactively the exact benefits to which they are entitled,” once the VA system is set up to correctly process claims.
The VA was scheduled to change the rate of benefits calculation by August 1 under the Forever GI Bill which was passed in 2017. However, the agency failed to meet the deadline because of technological glitches caused by its 50-year-old computer system collapsing when processing the complex new formula.
Thousands of veterans experienced delays in receiving their GI Bill benefits that impacted their housing and tuition payments at the start of the new school year. The VA announced recently it would take until December 2019 for the system to become functional. In the meantime, Lawrence told lawmakers that veterans are being paid under the old rates.
David W. Magann, P.A.
156 W. Robertson St.
Brandon, FL 33511
Call: (813) 657-9175
4012 Gunn Highway #165
Tampa, Florida 33618
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