U.S. House Veterans' Affairs Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) sent a letter last week to Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie urging the agency to fix numerous issues related to the processing of GI Bill education benefits that could "impact student veterans for months to come," Politico reported.
Information technology (IT)-related challenges at the VA as well as a delayed implementation of the Forever GI Bill, which was passed last year, contributed to a recent backlog of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Rep. Roe said in his letter that he fears more problems are ahead when the VA seeks to reprocess many claims once an expected IT system change is made.
"I implore you to personally oversee the implementation of these modifications and ensure student veterans and schools are informed about these changes and delays as quickly as possible," Roe told Wilkie in the letter.
The House Veterans' Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, rescheduled from an earlier date, on November 15 to discuss the issue. Roe said he wants to know how much the system failures are costing taxpayers, reported Politico.
Ahead of the hearing, AACRAO also joined a group of higher education groups in a letter to the committee expressing concern about the implementation of the Forever GI Bill.
"The VA's interpretation of section 107 to require class-by-class ZIP code level determinations, and the extensive IT changes necessitated by this interpretation, have resulted in inexcusable delays in the payment of veterans’ housing and tuition benefits. These delays have caused anxiety, confusion, and hardship for thousands of veterans pursuing higher education at our institutions," the groups wrote. "We believe the time has come for VA to abandon this flawed effort. We urge Congress to direct the VA to develop a better approach that will ensure veterans receive their benefits in a timely and consistent manner."