• August 30, 2015

Agency Tries to Explain How It's Handling Backlog of Claims Under New GI Bill

More than one-third of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are enrolled in college this semester still have not received their education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, an official of the Veterans Affairs Department said at a Congressional hearing on Thursday in testimony that expanded on the causes of the delay.

Since May, about 275,000 veterans have applied for, and 213,000 have received, certificates of eligibility for the program. But they have 15 years from the end of their active service to use the benefits, and only about 82,500 of those who applied are enrolled in courses this fall, Keith M. Wilson, the department's director of education services, told members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs. Of those enrolled, 52,500 have received payments so far, he said.

Emergency advance checks of $3,000 have provided a stopgap measure for the tens of thousands of veterans still waiting, and Mr. Wilson said the department does not believe that any veterans have been forced to drop out of college because of the delays.

The delays stem from several sources. Veterans Affairs officials had expected that most veterans who applied would be those planning to enroll in classes this fall. Instead, widespread publicity for the new GI Bill led to an influx of applications from veterans who did not intend to use the benefits this year. In the summer and early fall, the department was also waiting for states to set tuition for public universities, and for colleges to verify that veterans were enrolled, which some institutions do not do until after classes begin.

But the biggest snarl has arguably been technology: The department must deal with each claim individually, and the process involves four separate computer systems that do not work together. The result is that each claim takes about 90 minutes to process, Mr. Wilson said. The department has hired 720 new employees to administer the program and is requiring workers to work overtime three days in each two-week pay period.

Those explanations were not enough for Rep. Harry E. Mitchell, Democrat of Arizona, who suggested that Veterans Affairs officials go without bonuses this year.

"Regardless of if you work on Wall Street or Main Street or in the Department of Veterans Affairs, bonuses should follow performance," Mr. Mitchell said.

Mr. Wilson said his department is working hard to correct the problem. A veteran himself, he takes the delays personally, he said. "I know what it's like to stand in line for food stamps after defending this nation for eight years," he said.

The goal, he said, is to clear the current backlog of claims before spring enrollment begins. Then the process will start all over again.


1. peo6609 - October 17, 2009 at 08:43 pm

that dem should resign. I think he doesn't know what a days work is and if he can't grasp the fact that a bonus should be due for working three days overtime he should sacrifice a years pay cause he is obviously getting paid to much and doesn't appreciate it.

2. citizenship - October 21, 2009 at 07:36 pm

The honorable Rep. Harry E. Mitchell, Democrat of Arizona, has very selective amnesia. It was the elected members of congress who wrote the legislation enabling the new GI Bill and then handed it off to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The DVA did not enact the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, the politicians are resposible for that.

The legislation, as originally written, was a tangled, ill-informed mess that had little grasp of the changes in modern education especially in terms of distance eduction, proliferation of branch campuses/teaching sites and soaring tuition and fee increases.

It has been suggested by some that many of the politicians who worked/voted on this bill never had to worry about how earn their tuition for school or they went to college before personal computers were commnplace and online courses existed.

More honest members of congress have admitted that they failed the DVA and veterans by not thoroughly researching and familiarizing themselves with the above noted problems and estimating the cost and impact of implimentation. The legislation was rushed through in the late Spring of 2008 so that it could be approved before the Summer campaign season and Fall elections.

The legislation has since undergone inumerable amendments to make it workable, Several more revisions are needed before it will be truly applicable to all current active-duty military and veterans (students at flight schools and veterans in apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs where completely ignored in the new GI Bill).

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