The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should do more to improve the management of its Post-9/11 GI Bill Program, which provides benefits to veterans who pursue a higher education, by cutting down on payment delays, working with colleges to give veterans more information about their financial-aid options, and taking advantage of outcomes data.
Those conclusions are among the recommendations in a report released on Wednesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which in 2011 also issued recommendations to the department regarding concerns about the program.
The GAO’s latest review found that, in the 2012 fiscal year, the department took an average of 31 days to process a new application, which is eight days longer than the department’s target benchmark. The department also took an average of 17 days to process a claim for benefit payment, five days longer than its target, the report says.
Student veterans faced several challenges as a result of the delays, the report says, and many said they took on more debt to cover the shortfall. Since its last report on the matter, the GAO said the department had worked on a new system to deal with such delays, though the GAO found the creation of that system had faced delays of its own.
The report says the department generally agreed with the GAO’s findings and vowed that it had taken steps to resolve problems identified by the review. It notes that the department is developing a long-term study to track veterans’ outcomes over the next two decades, and says officials expect an annual survey of Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries to begin this year.