Congressman Tim Walz
On November 15th, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing titled a “Review of Veterans Employment Challenges and in Initiatives of the 112th Congress”. I am very pleased with everything the members of the committee have accomplished this session. I am also pleased to see the progress the Department of Veterans Affairs has made in implementing the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. However, I am concerned with trends regarding the processing of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.
As a teacher, I firmly believe that receiving a good education is one of the most important determining factors for economic success. As a retired Command Sergeant Major, I understand the best tool we have given our veterans to achieve economic prosperity is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The new G.I. Bill is crucial for sending our new generation of veterans to higher education institutions. But for some veterans, the exceedingly slow delivery of VA education benefits payments is causing an unexpected and unacceptable financial burden.
According to the VA’s backlog Monday report for the 19th of November, there are 160,000 education claims pending; of that 24,000 are Post 9/11 G.I. Bill claims. In the St. Louis office there are 8,000 claims pending, Buffalo Regional Office has 7,000, Atlanta and Muskogee have 4,000. At Minnesota State University – Mankato there are 418 student veterans that are currently certified, but 53 have not received their tuition payments. At South Central College 114 student veterans are currently certified, but 32 have not received their tuition payments.
I have seen the progress that the VA has made in approving GI Bill benefits, when I first received the GI Bill it took me 6 months to receive my first payment. With today’s modern technology, veterans plan to receive their benefits much sooner. When they do not receive their earned benefits, they not only have trouble paying for tuition, they also have trouble keeping a roof over their head and food on the table. When veterans don’t receive their benefits by the tuition payment deadline it leaves them with little time to seek the financial assistance they need.
I would like to know what is causing the delay in education benefits delivery, what is being done to ensure benefits are delivered in a timely manner, and how VA expects to manage the expectations and needs of the veterans. I request that the Department of Veterans Affairs work with my staff and the committee’s staff to find answers to these problems. It is imperative that we work together to ensure American’s military veterans receive the treatment they’ve earned.