The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doled out $416 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill overpayments during the 2014 fiscal year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found in a new report. The VA provided $10.8 billion in GI Bill benefits to 800,000 student veterans last year. But overpayments affected about one in four veteran beneficiaries, according to the GAO report. As of November 2014 the VA still was collecting $152 million in overpayments from last year and another $110 million from previous years.
Enrollment changes and college errors are primary drivers of the overpayments, the GAO said. And inadequate guidance, processes and training have limited the VA's ability to reduce overpayments. Many veterans may not realize they can incur overpayments as a result of enrollment changes, because the VA gives them limited guidance on its policies, according to the GAO.
Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, responded to the report with a written statement. He said the VA typically fails to account for when a student changes enrollment status during the course of a semester. That means when a student drops a class, the resulting overpayment to the college can result in the veteran unknowingly owing a sizable debt to the federal government.
"I'm concerned the VA’s current system for administering Post-9/11 GI benefits is too confusing, and that the burden for repaying overpayments falls disproportionately on veterans, many of whom may be unaware that they may have been given too much money and owe it back," Carper said. "Ultimately, we must ensure that we are not, through poor management of this program, placing yet another barrier to success in front of veterans trying to get a high-quality education."
The VA accepted the GAO's recommendations for fixing the problem and has begun working on making those changes.
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