WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Servicemembers Improved Transition through Reforms for Ensuring Progress (SIT-REP) Actto ensure that student veterans are not forced to endure additional financial burdens and are not denied access to school facilities due to delayed processing of G.I. Bill benefit payments.
The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill provides education benefits, including a monthly living stipend, to more than 775,000 student veterans and eligible dependents. Unfortunately, delays in the processing of tuition payments – by unintendedly slow processing by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or errors by school certifying officials – have caused some student veterans to endure financial hardship and be denied access to their education. In rare cases, schools have reportedly put a hold on a student veteran’s account or forced the student to begin payment of tuition and fees on a payment plan until the school receives G.I. Bill funds from the VA.
“We must create certainty for our veterans who use the education benefits they earned in service to our country. This is a commonsense measure that allows veterans to eliminate the potential for financial hardships to receive the tools to help prepare them for civilian life. I appreciate Senator Warren’s leadership on this issue,” Boozman said.
“All three of my brothers served in the military, and they taught me about the importance of honoring our promises to our veterans and servicemembers,” Warren said. “We owe our servicemembers a quality education when they return home so they can build a future for themselves and their families. I’m glad to work with Senator Boozman to support student veterans who put their life on the line in service to our country.”
The implementation of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act(Forever G.I. Bill) will expand eligibility for Post-9/11 G.I. Bill education benefits – and may result in a higher volume of claims that must be processed by the VA and schools. To ensure that student veterans have access to the educational resources they deserve, the SIT-REPAct would:
- Prohibit a college, university, or training program from adopting a policy in which it imposes a late fee on eligible student veterans, denies them access to school facilities (such as classrooms and libraries), or requires them to take out additional loans due to a delayed G.I. Bill benefit payment from the VA to the school.
- In the event of a delay by the VA in issuing a G.I. Bill benefit payment directly to a school, prohibit the school from imposing late fees on student veterans and denying them access to school facilities for up to 90 days after the school certifies tuition and fees. This provision would apply only to benefits that are paid directly to the school.
- Allow the VA Secretary to waive these two aforementioned prohibitions when appropriate.
- Require the VA to distribute G.I. Bill payments to the school within 60 days from when the school certifies tuition and fees for the student.
- Mandate a report from the VA to Congress twice a year with a summary of any cases in which delayed G.I. Bill disbursements occurred and an explanation for the delays.
Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ann Kuster (D-NH) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives on January 18, 2018. This bill is endorsed by the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS), Veterans Education Success, The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Military Family Association, Student Veterans of America and American Council on Education (ACE).
“TAPS is grateful to Senator Warren and Senator Boozman for sponsoring legislation that means so much to survivors and veterans. No GI Bill student should be penalized with late fees, unnecessary student loans, or prohibited access to facilities because of when the VA pays their tuition. This crucial legislation will greatly benefit veterans and survivors as we go through the complicated process of implementing the Forever GI Bill.” – Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
“Veterans Education Success supports this bill as it is an excellent precautionary measure to protect students using GI Bill benefits from being impacted financially due to issues that are out of their control such as delayed GI Bill payments. It is a common sense bill that protects the military-connected students and allows them to worry less about the finances and focus more on their education while their payments are being processed.” – Veterans Education Success
“The VFW applauds Senators Warren and Boozman for introducing this bi-partisan legislation to remove unnecessary penalties and red tape for GI Bill students. Going back to school can be a challenging period for students after their military careers, and being penalized for factors out of their control is an unnecessary burden. Removing late fees for all students utilizing their GI Bill benefits would save these students time and money that could be better spent pursuing their educational goals.” – Carlos Fuentes, Director National Legislative Service for the Veterans of Foreign Wars
Original article source: https://www.boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/6/boozman-warren-lead-efforts-to-eliminate-unintentional-financial-burdens-for-student-veterans | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council