Dec 19 2018
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act, bipartisan legislation backed by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits.
“Thousands of Virginia veterans and their families depend on Forever GI Bill housing benefits while pursuing higher education. But the VA has dropped the ball in carrying out the law as Congress intended,” said Sen. Warner. “Now that this bill has passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, it’s time to get this bill through the House and swiftly signed into law so that veterans can receive the full housing benefits they rightfully earned and deserve.”
The Forever GI Bill that was signed into law in July 2017 included changes to how veteran housing benefits are calculated. However, because of missteps in updating their IT systems combined with a lack of internal processes, the VA has failed to provide timely or accurate payments as set by the Forever GI Bill. Delayed or insufficient VA payments have forced many student veterans into difficult financial circumstances. However, the VA has indicated that it will be more than a year before it will be able to correctly calculate veterans’ housing allowance under the Forever GI Bill.
The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act would require the VA to:
- End improper payments as soon as possible;
- Establish a team of specialists who will be responsible to report to Congress a detailed plan to correct this egregious error;
- Provide a report to Congress by July 2020 that identifies how many beneficiaries were impacted and to what extent, aggregated by state; and
- Certify the department is fully compliant with the law.
The legislation is also sponsored by Sens. John Boozman (R-AR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).
Last month, Sen. Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, calling on the VA to immediately address the lack of timely payments to veterans.