Expansion of GI Bill benefits raises concerns about VA issues

Last year, congress passed a law making several alterations to the GI Bill including 14 that go into effect next month

Expansion of GI Bill benefits raises concerns about VA issues

(Photo/U.S. Army photo)

Max Filby
Dayton Daily News, Ohio

Upcoming changes to GI Bill benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs are raising some concerns because of the agency’s troubled history.

The GI Bill is a benefits program that helps veterans cover the cost of getting a college education or job training. Last year, congress passed a law making several alterations to the GI Bill including six that went into effect right away, one in January and 14 that go into effect on Aug. 1.

The most prominent change was the elimination of a 15-year limit that post-9/11 veterans had to use their GI Bill benefits, according to the VA. That change went into effect right away last year.

Upcoming changes will make post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients eligible for full GI Bill benefits for up to three years. Another alteration will allow veterans to get nine additional months of post-9/11 benefits if they are pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or math, according to the VA.

Though the changes have been celebrated, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Arkansas Republican Sen. John Boozman have expressed concerns because of the VA’s recent problems.

Long wait times became the subject of a 2014 scandal and more recently the VA has been scrutinized for overpaying benefits to veterans and then demanding those bets pay them back thousands of dollars. The two senators introduced a bill recently to try to prevent such problems from occurring with the expansion of GI benefits.

This news organization has reached out to the offices of both Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown for comment on the expansion of post-9/11 benefits and VA issues.

Though concern from past VA problems linger, they may be avoided this time, said Amanda Watkins, associate director of Wright State University’s Veteran and Military Center. The incremental roll out of GI Bill changes was likely done on purpose so the agency could avoid issues that plagued it in the past, Watkins said.

“I think that they’re looking at it a little bit wiser now and giving themselves time to update systems and train staff,” Watkins said.

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