It’s been more than a month since the Veterans Affairs Department was required by law to change the way it calculates housing stipends for student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to pay for college. Yet the agency still has not completed the necessary technology updates to make that happen.
Meanwhile, many veterans are sure to receive checks with the wrong amount — an error VA officials have previously said will not cost veterans money. The department will reimburse GI Bill users for any underpayments and let them pocket overpayments.
A VA spokesperson said in an email last week that the department was still working on the remaining technology updates and was in the process of preparing to notify students about the impact to their payments.
The VA blew through its original July 16 deadline to have the technology ready in time for the Aug. 1 launch of the housing stipend changes under the Forever GI Bill, passed last year. The new law states that the amount students receive for their housing allowance each month — equivalent to what an active-duty E-5 with dependents would receive — should be based on the location of the campus where they take the most classes. Previously, the amount was based on the location of the school’s main campus.
Although the Forever GI Bill set the deadline as Aug. 1, VA officials told Congress they needed more time and expected to have the changes made by the middle of August. The spokesperson did not return multiple requests for comment on a projected completion date.
"Many of the benefits that (the Forever GI Bill) ensures have already been implemented; however it’s troubling to me that VA still has not yet finalized the IT systems needed to fully implement the law, despite having a year to do so,” said Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, whose Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity has held two hearings on the implementation of the bill. “It is now a month (past) the deadline set in the law and two weeks past VA’s self-imposed deadline to have the system fully running, and the department’s failure to do so is unacceptable as it could impact payments for upwards of 650,000 veterans.”
Roe told Military Times he plans to “continue to conduct aggressive oversight of VA to ensure this law is properly and quickly implemented and see to it that VA fixes this serious problem.”
Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.