Tyler Kinslow, a Navy veteran and student at San Diego State University in the Student Veterans House on Monday, May 15, 2017 in San Diego, Calif. Photo by Clay Lomneth / The American Legion.

VA secretary assures reimbursement for missed, underpaid GI Bill benefits

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie issued a statement Nov. 29 assuring that VA would repay underpaid or missed GI Bill benefits payments.

“To clear up any confusion,” Wilkie said, “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.

“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,” he concluded.

American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad issued a statement on the issue, highlighting the financial strain it has put on student veterans.

“We are glad see VA taking the steps to do right by the veterans who have been underpaid or not received their GI Bill benefit payments,” Reistad said. “It has been the cause of undue stress for thousands of student veterans and it must be rectified.”

Wilkie’s statement comes on the heels of implementation issues pertaining to the Forever GI Bill coupled with the confusion of conflicting statements released by VA to the media and congressional staff members.

The Forever GI Bill expands veterans’ education benefits and was passed last year by Congress. Housing allowances under the Forever GI Bill are calculated based off where a student veteran physically attends classes rather than calculating based on the location of the main campus. The law dictated this change needed to made by Aug. 1, 2018, but IT issues have pushed implementation back to Dec. 1, 2019. The IT problems resulted in a substantial backlog of claims made by student veterans.