Measure would help student veterans needing to repay accidental overpayments in GI Bill benefits
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced a bill that would address a problem for many student veterans - GI Bill overpayments and the way students have to pay those benefits back.
Overpayments occur when a student veteran gets paid too much in GI Bill benefits. Under current law, the VA is required to collect overpayments. If the student fails to repay the overpayment, the VA is then required to offset the overpayment against the next round of tuition and housing payments.
Since GI Bill benefits are often the sole source of income for student veterans, docking can put student vets in a really tough spot.
“Our student veterans have sacrificed their lives to defend our country,” Bennet said. “The least we can do is put them in a position where they can settle these debts without creating a hardship. This common-sense measure would give our student vets the flexibility to work with the VA to repay overpayments over a length of time, instead of scrambling at the last second to come up with cash.”
This measure changes the current law so that these reduced benefits payments come at the end of a student’s eligibility period for benefits, instead of upon discovery of the overpayment. This would give students more time to work with the VA to address overpayments or to plan before their benefits are cut.
For example, the bill would allow a student with an overpayment in her first semester of college to have the offset taken from her final year of college instead of during the current semester.
Although a notification process for dealing with overpayments exists, many student veterans report that they don’t have enough time to figure out ways to come up with the money, or to dispute the overpayment. And in some instances, student veterans say their benefits are reduced without notice.
This measure came at the recommendation of Bennet’s Veterans Working Group, a group of veterans and service providers formed to identify ways to make Colorado the best state for service members, veterans, and their families to live and work.
Last June, Bennet wrote a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki urging the VA to modify its debt repayment process in order to provide greater flexibility for student veterans. Last month, the VA responded that it did not have authority to change the policy.