WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation co-introduced by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid GI Bill housing benefits into law. The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act was introduced to address the VA’s failure to fully comply with updated Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates set by the Forever GI Bill.
The improper payments resulted from IT systems that had not been properly updated and lack of internal processes to get the VA the necessary information about payment rates. The Forever GI Bill directed VA to calculate BAH rates based on the zip code of where a student takes the majority of classes, rather than on a zip code in which the school’s main campus is located. The implementation of this change before the IT system had been updated, in addition to a realignment of VA and DOD housing allowance rates, led to delayed and improper payments for student veterans.
“I am proud of the work we did on a bipartisan basis to get this important legislation through Congress and signed into law,” said Senator Tillis. “Thousands of veterans rely on receiving proper GI Bill housing benefits to pay their bills and we must ensure we deliver on the promise we gave them. I look forward to reviewing the plan from the VA to correct this error and quickly reimburse the veterans who were underpaid or did not receive payments.”
Joining Senator Tillis to introduce the legislation were Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
The bill 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 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.
Anyone requiring assistance with their GI Bill benefit or experiencing financial hardship due to a delay in payment are encouraged to contact the VA Education Call Center at 1-888-442-4551 or online at https://gibill.custhelp.va.gov/app/utils/login_form/redirect/ask. They may also contact Senator Tillis’ office at 919-856-4630 or at tillis.senate.gov and someone will assist them directly.