by Tom Tarantino
Are you a new student on the Post 9/11 GI Bill or a second semseter veteran? Click here for a mid-semester update about the claims backlog, emergency payments, new financial aide rules and a rise in tuition benefits that may impact you.
- GI Bill Checks Coming Faster For Some Vets, At The Expense Of Others
- VA Collecting Emergency Payments
- New Financial Aide Rules Means More Money For Student Veterans
- California Tuition Benefits Rise… Again
The VA is cutting GI Bill checks considerably faster than last term. The VA has already processed claims for nearly 90% of veterans requesting the new GI Bill and has paid over 141,000 veterans this Spring. However, in its zeal to get the new GI Bill on the right track veterans using the old GI Bill (MGIB and REAP) are now experiencing delays of 4-6 weeks. The VA’s weekly workload report shows over 100,000 old GI Bill claims outstanding, compared to the 17,000 new GI Bill claims. This backlog is particularly odd because it takes ¼ the time to process an old GI Bill claim than a new GI Bill claim. As one of our veterans is fond of saying, “Joe will do what the Commander checks.” It appears that because the media and congress is paying close attention to the new GI bill, the VA is working the new GI Bill while the old GI Bill is on the backburner.
VA Collecting Emergency Payments
As we announced in our last GI Bill Wire posting, the VA is beginning to recollect the $3,000 emergency checks that they issued last term. The VA has announced how they intend to collect those payments on their website. Here is just a quick rundown of those rules:
- You will receive a letter from the VA.
- Choose between:
- Paying it off in full,
- Deducting it from your future living allowance: the VA will collect $750/month starting in April, or
- Setting up a payment plan: contact the VA’s Debt Management Center but generally they want the money back within a year (approximately $250/month).
- If you fail to repay: the VA can garnish your salary and/or tax refunds
- For Schools: The VA will not deduct recoupment payments from tuition/fees payments
The new federal financial aid forms (FAFSA) for 2010-2011 no longer asks whether a veteran is receiving GI Bill benefits. Previously, veterans were required to disclose how much GI bill benefits they expected to receive each year and this affected veterans’ eligibility for benefits. Now a veteran receiving GI Bill benefits can qualify for the full education benefits offered to our civilian counterparts such as Pell Grants, worth up to $5,550/yr in free education money. This major change is due in part to IAVA’s tough advocacy on veterans’ education benefits.
California Tuition Benefits Rise… Again
Responding to the University of California’s mid-year tuition & fees increases, the VA has increased California’s Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition cap to $335/credit.
This will ensure that the new GI Bill will cover the full cost of tuition & fees for all public undergraduate students in California. It will also help full-time veterans attending private or graduate school in CA with an additional $1,500/yr towards their tuition costs. If you want to see what you are eligible to receive under the new GI Bill please visit our GI Bill benefits calculator.
This is the second time the VA has increased California’s tuition cap this year. It was originally set at $0/credit because of a semantic disagreement between the VA and the state of California. After intense negotiations and a change of terminology the cap was increased to $287/credit in early August.
This is the seventh tuition & fees cap change since August 1st, when the Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition & fees cap chart was supposedly finalized. IAVA has testified that the VA’s current method of determining tuition & fees benefits is confusing, unpredictable and inequitable. Considering that tuition caps have changed 587% since last year, it is downright impossible for a veteran to predict from year to year what the Post 9/11 GI Bill will pay.
To reduce confusion and processing time, IAVA is pushing to improve the New GI Bill by removing the tuition and fee cap system altogether and replace it with a more equitable and generous tuition benefit by fully covering tuition and fees at any public undergraduate school, while setting a national baseline for the Yellow Ribbon program for private and graduate schools. You can read more about IAVA’s recommendations for updating the New GI Bill here.
For breaking developments on the GI Bill, follow IAVA on Twitter @newgibill.