More than one-third of U.S. war veterans enrolled in college this semester have not received education payments from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, officials said Thursday.
A Congressional hearing was held Thursday to determine the cause of the delay. Keith M. Wilson, director of education services for the Veterans Affairs Department, said to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs that of the 82,500 veterans enrolled this fall who applied for benefits, only 52,500 have received payments.
Reform is needed to address this issue. Veterans who have served their country deserve the education benefits they were promised. According to The Associated Press, some student veterans have been forced to take out loans and use credit cards to pay for college.
One factor in the delay was the unexpectedly large number of applicants planning to use benefits this semester. The newest version of the GI Bill, which went into effect Aug. 1, greatly expanded coverage but also made the bill more complicated, according to the Washington Post.
Payment is divided into three installations: tuition, housing and textbooks. A tuition check is sent to the school, while the veteran receives allowances for housing and textbooks.
The biggest delay, which is perhaps the most inexcusable, is the vastly outdated technology the department must use. Wilson said applicant information must be entered into four separate computer systems that are incompatible.
The department has been forced to hire 720 employees just to help with processing and mandate overtime for all workers.
Still, some have thrust blame on the department. Rep. Harry E. Mitchell of Arizona proposed at the hearing that Veteran Affairs officials give up their bonuses for this year.
“Regardless of if you work on Wall Street or Main Street or in the Department of Veterans Affairs, bonuses should follow performance,” Mitchell said.
The department should not be held entirely responsible for the delay. The government should provide more funding to update and streamline the process. An easier system would mean less work for employees and may save the department money in the long run.
Student veterans cannot be left waiting for education benefits. Wilson said the department has issued emergency advance checks of $3,000 for waiting veterans. Still, veterans should not have to take out loans to make up for money they expected to receive.