WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act, legislation cosponsored by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – to make certain the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits.
“It is imperative that the VA make every effort to restore confidence with veterans by delivering the care and benefits they have earned,” said Sen. Moran. “I am pleased the U.S. Senate sent a clear message that the VA must earn back GI Bill beneficiaries’ trust, and I’m proud to help lead efforts that will make the VA worthy of the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes. The unanimous passage of this legislation moves us one step closer toward that goal.”
This legislation will address the VA’s failure to fully comply with reimbursement 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 VA should have used the Department of Defense’s 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing rates, which should have been calculated based on the zip code where the student takes the majority of classes, rather than on the zip code in which the school’s main campus is located. Instead, some GI Bill recipients have been receiving housing stipends at the 2017 rate and based on the school’s zip code. In all cases, the 2018 rate is higher than the 2017 rate.
The legislation was introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and is cosponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).
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.