Isakson Statement on VA’s Efforts to Fix Payment Issues with Implementation of Forever G.I. Bill
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today released the following statement regarding today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that it is seeking to fix payment issues that have arisen as the department implements provisions of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act and works to improve the information technology (IT) system needed to accommodate the updated G.I. Bill changes.
“Congress provides more than $4 billion a year for the VA’s information technology organization, and the department must be held accountable to produce smart IT solutions that work for veterans and the VA workforce. While I am disappointed that the VA does not yet have an effective IT system in place, I understand Secretary Wilkie’s decision to reset implementation of certain sections of the ‘Forever’ G.I. Bill while improvements continue to be made. Right now, the VA’s priority must be to ensure accurate payments are sent to student veterans in a timely manner. Student veterans rely on the G.I. Bill to support themselves and their families while they are in school, and the VA is responsible for keeping those payments going, even as it implements the new law. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I will continue to keep a close watch to ensure the VA implements this law as Congress intended and does so without interrupting the benefit payments on which student veterans rely.”
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 was introduced by Isakson and signed into law on Aug. 16, 2017. The new law makes much-needed updates for reservists, Purple Heart recipients, veterans who face school closures while enrolled, and surviving family members. The legislation also provides increased resources and authority for educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training.
Most significantly, this bill eliminates the arbitrary 15-year period within which a veteran is required to use their G.I. Bill and instead allows them to use their benefits at any time in their professional career.
Two sections of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 make changes to how the VA pays the monthly housing allowance portion of the G.I. Bill. The VA has experienced significant challenges incorporating these changes into its existing information technology system resulting in missed, inaccurate or delayed payments to student veterans. In order to eliminate processing delays to benefit payments, Secretary Wilkie has decided to reset implementation of these IT system updates so they can be sure ongoing payments will not be impacted.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.