WASHINGTON -- Keith Wilson, who served as the face of the Post-9/11 GI Bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs during the program's rocky first year and into stability recently, is leaving his post as the department's education service director to head a regional office. The move came as a surprise to some who have worked closely with the department on veterans' benefits.
Wilson was a staple at hearings on Capitol Hill after the rollout of the Post-9/11 GI Bill encountered a series of problems in 2009. The program was plagued by processing delays, with veterans' groups and lawmakers calling for improvements. Although the program began to function more smoothly after the backlog was resolved, observers suggested that burnout from the early tumult could have played a role in Wilson's decision.
"His leadership has been instrumental in the success of implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the challenges that have confronted the agency notwithstanding," said Russell Kitchner, vice president for regulatory and government relations with the American Public University System, which enrolls a large number of veterans.
Who will take Wilson's place is unclear, but Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that he will not leave until a replacement has been found. "I just hope that during the transition, the VA maintains the relationship that Keith had developed with the higher education community," said James Selbe, vice president in the department of military operations at University of Maryland University College. "He was really at the forefront as the conversation occurred throughout implementation, especially when changes were being proposed and after those changes were put in place."