UPDATE: VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has responded to the GI Bill controversy. He is assuring veterans that "each and every post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary will be made 100 percent whole."
To clear up any confusion, I want to make clear that each and every post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary will be made 100 percent whole – retroactively if need be – for their housing benefits for this academic year based on Forever GI Bill rates, not on post-9/11 GI Bill rates.
I made this clear to Chairmen Isakson and Roe on calls yesterday and want to reassure Veterans and taxpayers that is indeed the case.
Although VA has encountered issues with implementing the Forever GI Bill on Congress’ timeline, we will work with lawmakers to ensure that – once VA is in a position to process education claims in accordance with the new law – each and every beneficiary will receive retroactively the exact benefits to which they are entitled under that law.
Veterans Affairs revealed that it will not be making retroactive payments to student veterans who were underpaid under the Forever GI Bill due to computer problems. The VA will not be reimbursing those students, officials explained, because doing so means they would have to audit all previous education claims before December 2019, perhaps as many as 2 million.
The missed payments have reportedly left some student veterans in poverty and homelessness.
The VA's controversial decision comes after agency officials promised the House Veterans Affairs Committee earlier this month that they would pay what was owed to the student veterans who got gipped over technical glitches. Veteran Benefits Administration Head Dr. Paul Lawrence, and Gen. Robert Worley, director of education service, testified as much, but could not provide any specific dates.
Gen. Worley, who will depart his current position to head the VBA's regional office in Houston, shared that 1,000 veterans had gone more than 60 days without their checks, 10,000 had been waiting between 30 and 60 days and about 73,000 total were still delayed. He could not provide the number of veterans who had gone more than 90 days.
However, Worley did say that veterans who had been overpaid can keep the money - they won't go looking for it.
At that same hearing, Richard Crowe, the senior vice president of software company Booz Allen, sounded off on the VA's aging computer systems. The VBA had contracted out software updates to Booz Allen.
“Many of the underlying IT systems required to implement the changes were past, at, or very near their intended dates for retirement,” Crowe said.
Veterans groups are rightfully outraged.
"Some of those guys in there, they were so in cover-your-ass mode," Patrick Murray, deputy director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said of the VA officials at the committee hearing.