Ranking Member Walz Statement After VA Announces Changes To Post-9/11 GI Bill Housing Payments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN) released the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced sweeping changes in the processing of GI Bill benefits payments under the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (Forever GI Bill). VA’s announcement comes after IT issues have caused thousands of student veterans to go months without receiving the GI Bill housing benefits they were promised:
“For the past 11 months, VA has continually failed to deliver a functioning IT system that can process housing payments as dictated by the law,” said Ranking Member Walz. “The changes VA announced today, however, raise more concerns than confidence that student veterans will be taken care of anytime soon.”
“In its announcement, VA made public that it intends to pull the Forever GI Bill Sections 107 and 501 contract from Booz Allen Hamilton, re-compete the contract, and start the IT implementation all over again with a new contractor who will be expected to complete work by December 1, 2019. Even under this extremely optimistic timeline, this means that student veterans will be receiving incorrect housing payments under the law for more than a year after the August 1, 2018 deadline mandated by the Forever GI Bill. In addition, without a complete and transparent analysis of what went wrong with the current IT implementation, there is no guarantee that a new contractor will not run into the same problems that Booz Allen Hamilton did with VA’s aging IT infrastructure and also fail to meet the new December 1, 2019 deadline.
“For that reason, I want to know exactly what VA plans to do differently this time to ensure success, as well as how VA will mitigate the cost overruns this reset is going to cause. It will also be the job of Congress to hold VA to the promise it has given during sworn testimony and the promise it reiterated again today in its press release that it will retroactively repay every student who has been underpaid due to the delays in implementation of both Sections 107 and 501 of the Forever GI Bill, with retroactive payments going all the way back to the statutorily mandated implementation date of August 1, 2018.
“Additionally, as of this week, there are still over 6,000 students whose GI Bill claims are over 30 days old. I want to make sure that today’s announcement does not take attention away from the fact that VA still has another pressing problem to address with the current unacceptable delays in payments to students who are relying on them for food and housing. This is not an issue that will go away on its own, and I expect VA to be putting as many resources toward solving the delays as it is toward its new contract.”