|According to a report from NBC News, a computer software issue has resulted in major problems for the VA and as a result it is struggling to pay student veterans the housing allowance and other benefits provided to them via the GI Bill.
The problems range from paying some veterans too much, some too little or some nothing at all. It is up to two months late on payments in other cases, forcing potentially thousands of former service members to have severe financial problems.
According to the VA the issue stems from an IT problem caused by changes to the law when President Donald Trump signed the Forever GI Act last year. New standards for calculating housing stipends were to be implemented on Aug. 1, but it caused “severe critical errors” during testing that resulted in incorrect payments.
Because of that the VA decided to postpone the deployment of the system. It is now paying students under 2017 rates, thus ignoring the 1 percent increase for 2018. It plans to reimburse students the difference they are owed at some point in the future.
Until it processes every veteran’s enrollment documents the VA won’t know how many veterans are affected by the delayed payments but it expects that 360,000 veterans will have to be paid the 2017 rate.
The VA has hired 202 temporary employees to process the claims and it hopes the problem can be solved by the end of the year.
Rep. David Roe, (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, began looking into the matter in mid-September. In a letter to Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence on Sept. 28, Roe wrote that the problem appeared to stem from student certifications not properly transferring from one system to another, causing “students’ certification [to be] lost and not making it to the payment program that provides the monthly living stipend.” He also noted that this was of particular concern because the VA’s workload for education claims increased by 52 percent between Sept. 22, 2017, to Sept. 21, 2018 – from 163,771 to 248,396.