Senator Schatz Introduces Bill to Reimburse Veterans
US Senators Brian Schatz and John Boozman introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs reimburses veterans for what they have called improper payments.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced to address the VA’s failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by the Forever GI Bill. Supporters of the legislation say 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.
“Secretary Wilkie may be saying the right things, but until the VA has a plan and invests money to address the ongoing staffing and IT challenges facing the claims backlog, our veterans will remain robbed of the benefits they were promised,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bill will hold the VA accountable and make sure every veteran that was short-changed is made whole.”
“Secretary Wilkie has acknowledged the VA’s error and promised that all affected recipients would be compensated, but the department’s plans to remedy the situation fall short. This bill aims to hold the department accountable to its promise and ensure that veterans are fully repaid for errors they did not cause,” said Senator Boozman.
The senators argue that 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 bill 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.