Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today urged the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to review the manner in which education benefits are delivered to veterans to ensure that they are received in a timely manner. As a growing number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are taking advantage of federal education benefits, some are reporting delays in receiving them as well as additional hardships.
Bennet’s statewide Veterans Working Group along with his office have fielded increased reports about Colorado’s student veterans experiencing difficulties with GI Bill payment delays. In an effort to take a more comprehensive look at the issue, Bennet conducted a survey of student veterans at Colorado universities. More than 200 veterans responded to the survey.
Bennet’s survey found that two out of three respondents reported an issue with education benefit payments – 84 percent of which experienced payment delays. The survey provides insightful data that also supports a recent query by two Colorado veterans of VA work-study students in several states. Their query found that 48 percent of student vets said it usually takes two to four weeks to get their checks. Nearly 13 percent said it took more than a month.
Results of Bennet’s survey can be found here.
In a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Bennet calls for a critical eye to examine the effectiveness of education benefits delivery.
“Many student veterans are rightfully counting on the benefits they earned to support their living and education expenses,” Bennet said. "We have a responsibility to make sure their benefits are delivered on time and I look forward to working with the VA to ensure we get this right.”
Earlier this year, Bennet also urged the VA to change its policy for how it recovers overpayments of GI Bill benefits to veterans. Instead of reducing benefit payments immediately, he requested the VA delay the reduction until the end of students’ eligibility period for benefits. The change would ensure that the VA is able to collect the debts owed to it without unnecessarily impairing the ability of veterans to use their benefits and complete their education, through an error that was no fault of their own.
Last year, Bennet convened a Veterans Working Group, comprised of leaders from across Colorado’s veterans’ community, to examine the broad range of challenges facing transitioning service members, veterans, and their families in an effort to make Colorado the best place to live and work for veterans. Bennet will continue to work with Secretary Shinseki and the VA to improve the delivery of benefits to our nation’s veterans.
Full text of the letter is below:
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
I write to share recent concerns I have heard from student veterans in Colorado regarding delays in GI Bill benefits.
Most recently, my office has seen an increase in the number of student veterans in Colorado reporting delays in GI Bill benefits. In response, my office sent out a survey to Colorado universities asking student veterans whether they encountered any difficulties with their GI Bill benefits. We heard from over 260 student veterans across the state. Although this sample is small relative to the significant size of the student veteran population of Colorado, it illustrates the common challenges that many student veterans face. For instance, more than 2 out of 3 respondents experienced issues with education benefit payments, and of those, 84 percent specifically reported experiencing payment delays. The majority of the student veterans from whom I have heard rely on the Post 9/11 GI Bill to cover much, if not all, of the costs of attending college such as tuition, housing, books. Delays in the receipt of GI Bill benefits hurt their ability to pay their bills and stay in school.
With over 24,000 student veterans across the state, Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of student veterans in the nation, and this number is expected to triple in the next five years. It is my hope that we can work together so that student veterans in Colorado and throughout the nation receive the benefits to which they are entitled in a timely manner.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to working you.
Senator Michael F. Bennet