by Patrick Campbell
The average processing time for Post 9/11 GI Bill claims by the VA has continued to grow and now is just shy of 7 weeks per claim (48 days). This is up from an average of 28 days back in August and 35 days last month. Veterans and schools are encouraged to submit their paperwork to the VA as soon as possible to begin the processing clock. Schools do NOT have to wait for a certificate of eligibility (CoE) from the VA to certify the veterans enrollment to the VA. The VA is currently prioritizing processing of veterans, who they know are enrolled in school, thus waiting for a CoE only slows the process down considerably.
Over 320,000 students have requested to use their GI Bill benefits this year and the VA has cut checks to 240,000 of them (75%). Here is how the numbers break down:
- 108,000 students are using the Post 9/11 GI Bill (80,000 have been paid)
- 220,000 students are using other GI Bill benefits (160,000 have been paid)
In response to these unacceptable delays the VA has issued emergency checks to about 70,000 veterans and hired out an outside contractor called ACS to supplement their processing capacity. The hope is that with ACS and some internal streamlining that the VA can “catch up” and clear their backlog by the end of the year. The VA now has 947 processors working on Chapter 33 claims and 208 processors and the ACS supplemental workforce working on non-Chapter 33 claims. While IAVA hopes that this goal of clearing the backlog by the end of the year is achieved, we believe that some veterans will not get their first non-emergency checks till 2010.
Another issue that has come up repeatedly in emails from veterans and schools alike is how the VA intends to recoup the emergency checks ranging up to $3,000/veteran. The VA has stated they are still sorting out the process and will not finalize it for a couple of weeks. However, they have assured us that they will be giving veterans, schools and veterans groups ample notice before they start making deductions and that their intention is to first withdraw from living allowance payments and not tuition/fees like some schools feared.
If you are a veteran who wants to check on the status of your claim you can call the GI Bill hotline at (888) GIBILL1 and they will look over your claim right there on the phone. However, please keep in mind that the wait times can be upwards of an hour and the call center is open 0600 - 1600 Eastern Time. If calling is not a viable option you can also send them an email by visiting https://www.gibill2.va.gov/vba/vba.cfg/php.exe/enduser/std_alp.php and clicking the “Ask a question” tab. The VA claims that they will answer any emails usually within 48 hours (IAVA cannot confirm this response time).
Follow IAVA's GIBillWire for the latest updates on Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.