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Student veterans who were overpaid on their GI Bill benefits would get more time to repay the money under a bill introduced Monday by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Current procedures require veterans to start paying back the money as soon as an overpayment is discovered. When they don’t reach a repayment agreement, the Veterans Affairs Department can make immediate cuts in tuition and living stipends.
Bennet wants the rules changed because involuntary benefits cuts or voluntary payments can put students in a difficult financial position, especially when they are just starting school.
He tried last year to get VA to change its repayment rules without legislation but VA officials told him they did not have authority to revise the policy.
Bennet proposes that student veterans receive more time to repay accidental overpayments of tuition and fees, and also wants them to have the option to repaying money by reducing or eliminating benefits at the end of their entitlement, which could be years away because the GI Bill provides 36 months of benefits for most people.
Accidental overpayments often surface at the start of school terms when a student adds or subtracts classes. If VA does not get immediate notice, a student can be overpaid, especially if the final set of classes makes them less than a full-time student.
In a statement, Bennet called his bill a “common-sense measure would give our student vets the flexibility to work with the VA to repay overpayments over a length of time, instead of scrambling at the last second to come up with cash.”
“The least we can do is put them in a position where they can settle these debts without creating a hardship,” he said.
Bennett’s proposal was referred to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which is looking at other possible changes in veterans’ education programs.