Student veterans in New York City who are at risk of being evicted from their homes because of delayed GI Bill payments from Veterans Affairs are getting a little extra help from the city’s government.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced a multi-agency effort this week to streamline emergency rent relief for student veterans who rely on the Post-9/11 GI Bill housing stipend to pay for rent. According to a news release from the mayor’s office, this includes most of the city’s 12,000 student veterans.
“Our nation owes our veterans a debt of gratitude for their service. At the very least, those who bravely served our country are owed the benefits promised to them by the federal government,” de Blasio said in the release. “New York City is stepping up to give student veterans the security they need to stay in their homes while they wait for the federal benefits they earned through service to our country.”
The administration has sent out information to schools that lays out how, and where, students can apply for rent assistance through the Department of Social Services. The city is also providing a letter that students can give to their landlords, who may not understand the reason for late payments.
New Yorkers aren’t the only ones reeling from unpaid education benefits. Students all over the country have been impacted by a large backlog of claims at the VA, partly due to the agency missing a key Aug. 1 deadline to update its technology systems that were supposed to change the way housing stipends were calculated under the new Forever GI Bill law.
A VA spokesman told Military Times in an email last week that as of Oct. 24, the agency had 120,000 education claims pending, most of which were for Post-9/11 GI Bill payments. Approximately 1,200 claims have been pending for 60 days or more.
Original claims for first-time GI Bill users are taking an average of 33 days to process, and supplement claims are averaging 23 days, he said. The current averages are higher than the VA’s goal to process these types of claims in 28 and 14 days, respectively.
Students who have gotten paid this semester are receiving payments under 2017 rules, which don’t account for the most recent change to the law — which stipulates that students are to be paid a housing stipend based on the location where they take the most classes, not the school’s main campuses — or a 2018 cost-of-living increase. The VA has said it will correct underpayments once the updated systems are live, and students will not be held responsible for overpayments.
De Blasio’s announcement comes after dozens of schools have reported to the city’s Department of Veterans' Services that many of their students who use the GI Bill to pay for school are between two to four months behind on rent payments, according to the news release.
Natalie Gross has been reporting for Military Times since 2017. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.