January 03, 2019

President Signs into Law Bipartisan Legislation Cosponsored by Senator Hassan to Ensure Veterans Receive Full Housing Benefits

WASHINGTON — President Trump today signed into law the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act, bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Senator Maggie Hassan to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses student veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits. The bill was introduced by U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies.

“The VA’s unacceptable blunder should not negatively impact the finances of veterans seeking higher education, and I am grateful for the bipartisan effort to swiftly pass this measure,” Senator Hassan said. “We will not let up in our efforts to hold the VA accountable and ensure that every veteran receives the full benefits that they have earned and deserve.”

This law will address the VA’s failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by the Forever GI Bill. The incorrect payments resulted from IT systems that had not been properly updated and from the lack of internal processes and controls to ensure that the VA had the necessary information about payment rates.

To correctly reimburse student veterans, the VA should have used the Department of Defense’s 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates, which should have been calculated based on the zip code where the student veteran 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 BAH rate and based on the school’s zip code. In all cases, the 2018 rate is higher than the 2017 rate.

In addition to Senator Hassan, the legislation was also cosponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act will 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.

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