Here’s why your GI Bill payments are delayed

Matt Saintsing
October 05, 2018 - 5:15 pm

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Students using GI Bill benefits across the country are experiencing an unprecedented backlog of delayed payments, forcing them to apply for emergency loans, borrowing money from friends and family, being late on their rents, and even going without food.

Due to systemic technological issues at the VA in implementing the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the “Forever GI Bill,”  veterans across the country are affected, delaying their housing payments. The problem stretches across the nation, and the VA is leaving colleges, and veterans to figure it out themselves. 

“VA told us in additional conferences last year that they were hiring additional staff to implement the new bill,” Antonio Banchs, the Veterans Affairs director at Eastern Tennessee State University (ETSU) tells Connecting Vets. “That didn’t work.” 

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VA “issued guidance to schools globally not to certify anyone before the 1st of August,” says Banchs, who is the school certifying official (SCO) at ETSU. “That was already going to set the VA up for a problem.”

Couple that with a technical glitch stemming from when Congress, last year, told the VA to include zip codes for students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill in the online portal. 

But to make matters worse, the VA didn’t adjust the portal used to certify students, and some certifications never made their way to the correct electronic destination. “And here we are the fifth of October, and they still haven’t retooled the VA-ONCE portal,” adds Banchs.

At ETSU alone, 690 students are using some form of the GI Bill, 300 of which are using Chapter 33, or the post-9/11 GI Bill. About 10 percent of students using Chapter 33 benefits are missing payments. But the issue isn’t just in Tennessee. According to Banchs, it is a global systemic issue.

“I belong to a message board for school certifying officials, and we communicate throughout all 50 states, and we’re asking each other if we’re having the same problem,” he says. “Everyone is chiming in saying ‘yep, I’m having it happen too.”

In messages reviewed by Connecting Vets, one certifying official said, “Some students are told it can be months before they get paid.” 

Another said, “Although (certifications) were processed, students are still waiting an additional week to get payment.” 

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One message said the majority of the certifications are input manually. 

“They indicated they are processing certifications in the order they are received, which is not accurate,” another reads. 

“I have been explaining the issues at the VA to students, but it sounds like we are passing the buck between the VA and the schools because the information is not being clearly explained to the veteran.”

Banchs says this is the first time he’s seen such a backlog of payments. To make matters worse, the VA hasn’t been coordinating with officials at individual schools. The only way Banchs knows about the disconnect is he’s been calling the VA nonstop to find answers. 

“Even to this day, the VA has not come back to us school certifying officials and told us here’s what’s happening,” he says. 

“It seems to be that nobody is aggressively looking at what’s happening.” 

The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

However, VA spokesperson Terrence Hayes has previously told Connecting Vets their goal is to process current Fiscal Year claims in 33.1 days for original claims and 23.7 days for supplemental claims. 

But when Banchs and other SCOs call the hotline, they are not given a timeline on when students can expect to see payments. When his executive aid called the hotline days ago, she told them it had been more than 30 days since some certifications were sent. 

The operator on the line told them since January 1st, they no longer have to meet a 30-day timeline.  

Veterans experiencing a genuine hardship can call VA's customer service number at 888-442-4551.

    To comment on this or share your story email us at gethelp@connectingvets.com.