Opening Statement of Hon. John Boozman, Ranking Republican Member, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity
Madame Chair, I appreciate the excellent testimonies submitted for this hearing, especially the administrative issues raised by the schools. It is clear that while not perfect, the level of benefits paid to veterans and to schools on their behalf is excellent. Unfortunately, administration of those benefits has not met the same standard because as VA and our staff noted in several meetings before passage as part of a defense supplement, the program is significantly more complex than any of its predecessors. Despite some early missteps, I am fully aware of the effort VA’s staff has put into developing the long term solution and I thank them for their work.
One of the basic difficulties is the wide variation in how public institutions in 50 states and the territories are funded and managed and how that impact s VA’s implementation of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. We are now entering the second year of the program and I am very concerned about issues surrounding the management of overpayments. VA’s basic position is that the veteran is responsible for returning any overpayment to VA and that schools should send overpayments to the veteran and the veteran send them to VA. This seems to be an unnecessarily bureaucratic process that also entails significant opportunity for less than optimal results.
We are also hearing about difficulties when schools send money directly back to VA as well as VA’s concerns about how some schools do not identify the veterans whose accounts should be credited for returned overpayments and the resulting attempts by VA to collect overpayments from veterans. Perhaps Madame Chair, it is time for a temporary moratorium on chapter 33 collections until VA and the schools get the rules for handling overpayments straightened out.
I yield back.