Delays in GI Bill Payments Spotlight the Need for Improvements to the VA IT System

In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act to expand education benefits for veterans and military families. One of the key provisions of the Forever GI Bill, as it is commonly known, was the elimination of the previous 15-year limit on using post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which would have been a big win for veterans had the VA thought to modernize their outdated IT system to handle the changes.

They did not.

Currently, there is a backlog of 73,000 pending claims, and more than 10,000 veterans have waited 31 days or more to receive their GI Bill monthly stipends, which are used to cover everyday expenses such as bills and groceries as well as tuition. According to CNN, over a thousand veterans have waited more than two months for their payments.

“The GI Bill is something we worked for,” said former staff sergeant Shaye Washington in a recent CBS news feature about the delayed payments. “I’ve been deployed and been to wars, so I feel like I shouldn’t have to stress over something that I worked for and risked my life for,” she added.

Even with the VA claims processing department adding additional staff and implementing mandatory overtime hours, there is no clear end in sight. At a hearing that took place in November, representatives from both parties expressed concerns about the claims backlog and pressed VA officials to outline a clear path to change.

There may be a silver lining on the horizon: The VET OPP Act

In part because of increased media coverage surrounding the GI Bill payment delays, there has been a renewed focus on improving the VA system and updating the existing IT platform to provide greater support for veterans transitioning back to civilian life.

In April of 2018, legislators introduced the Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan Act of 2018 (the VET OPP Act), which would establish a new administration within the VA that would focus specifically on economic opportunity assistance programs for veterans.

According to the VET OPP Act, functions of the new administration would include vocational rehabilitation and employment programs, educational assistance programs, home loan and mortgage assistance programs, and a stronger emphasis on promoting veteran-owned small businesses. Currently, these fall under the broader scope of the Veterans Benefits Administration and often take a back seat to veteran health care and disability compensation.

The VET OPP Act, which still needs to pass both the House and Senate before it is signed into law by the president, will likely lead to improvements in the current VA IT system. This, in turn, may help prevent problems such as the recent GI Bill payment delays and give more veterans a chance at a successful life after discharge.

Make sure you have a copy of your DD214 to show proof of service.

Like most veteran-aimed benefits, the education assistance and additional aid provided by the Forever GI Bill are only available to individuals who can provide proof of their military service and honorable discharge. Because many veterans don’t realize until the last minute that their DD214 has been lost, stolen, damaged or never received, it is wise to check before you start the application process to make sure you have a copy.

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DD214Direct.com

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