WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump signed into law the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid Forever GI Bill housing benefits.
The legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, to hold VA accountable for its failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by the Forever GI Bill. The legislation moved swiftly through both chambers of Congress. The Senate approved the bill on December 18 and the House passed it on December 20.
“I’m pleased that President Trump signed this bill into law to protect veterans who rely on this benefit. There’s simply no excuse for failing to fully deliver the housing benefits that GI bill recipients are owed. I will continue to use congressional oversight to make certain VA’s errors do not go uncorrected,” Boozman said. “I encourage any Arkansan who has been affected by this problem to reach out to my office so that we can ensure they get their full benefits.”
“Now that this bill is law, student veterans no longer have to worry about being shortchanged,” Schatz said. “Congress will also have more tools to make sure the VA does right by our veterans. I’m glad we were able to get this done.”
The VA should have used the Department of Defense’s 2018 Basic Allowance for Housing rates which should have been calculated based on the zip code where the student 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 rate and based on the school’s zip code. In all cases, the 2018 rate is higher than the 2017 rate.
The legislation is 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), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).
The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act would 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.