Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

Serrano Leads NY Delegation Letter Urging Dept. of Veteran Affairs to Address Student Veteran GI Bill Benefit Delays

Nov 2, 2018
Press Release
Student Veterans in New York and Across the Country Experience Delays in Receiving Hard-Earned Benefits to Continue Their Studies

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman José E. Serrano (NY-15) led a letter from 19 members of the New York Congressional Delegation calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to immediately address the unnecessary delays that student veterans at Fordham University and other universities across New York State are facing in receiving educational benefits promised to them under the Forever GI Bill.

With last year’s passage of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, more commonly known as the Forever GI Bill, Congress ordered changes to enhance and expand veterans educational benefits. These changes required the VA Office of Information and Technology (OIT) to update IT systems by August 1, 2018. Nearly three months after this deadline, and two months into the academic school year, these updates remain incomplete and have led to long delays in processing benefits. Without book stipends and monthly housing allowances, student veterans cannot continue their studies properly and, worse, face the risk of eviction and homelessness.

“We call on you to address these issues immediately by using whatever means possible to efficiently and accurately process claims, and ensure benefits quickly make their way to the student veterans they serve. We urge the VA to provide better communication with student veterans and their families, as well as schools and universities, to keep them informed of the progress or delays made in processing their claims. The VA must also work to prevent any student veterans from incurring any late fees or any other fines due to a delay in receiving their benefits. While we understand the VA continues to face many significant challenges, no student veteran should bear any financial burden at the hands of the VA,” the members wrote.

Delegation members joining the letter to Secretary Wilkie include: Carolyn B. Maloney, Adriano Espaillat, John Katko, Thomas R. Suozzi, Nita M. Lowey, Elise M. Stefanik, Brian Higgins, Eliot L. Engel, Peter T. King, Hakeem S. Jeffries, Sean Patrick Maloney, Lee M. Zeldin, Joseph Crowley, Jerrold Nadler, Paul D. Tonko, Kathleen M. Rice, Gregory W. Meeks, and Nydia M. Velázquez.

Full text of the letter:

November 2, 2018

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary Wilkie:

We write to you with great urgency regarding student veterans that attend colleges and universities in the communities we represent. Due to significant challenges within the VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT), these student veterans are experiencing significant delays in receiving their monthly housing allowance (MHA) and other benefits they are entitled to under federal law.

As you are aware, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, more commonly known as the Forever GI Bill, incorporated several changes to MHA benefits that required simultaneous changes in IT systems. These IT system upgrades were scheduled for completion on August 1, 2018, in time for the new academic year. However, nearly two and a half months after the deadline passed, and more than a month into the new academic year, these IT upgrades remain incomplete. This has resulted in serious delays causing undue hardship for many student veterans that we represent. These students already face multiple hurdles in continuing their higher education, and receiving the benefits they have rightly earned for their service should be the very least of their worries.

We call on you to address these issues immediately by using whatever means possible to efficiently and accurately process claims, and ensure benefits quickly make their way to the student veterans they serve. We urge the VA to provide better communication with student veterans and their families, as well as schools and universities, to keep them informed of the progress or delays made in processing their claims. The VA must also work to prevent any student veterans from incurring any late fees or any other fines due to a delay in receiving their benefits. While we understand the VA continues to face many significant challenges, no student veteran should bear any financial burden at the hands of the VA. 

Thank you for your immediate and full attention to this issue. Our student veterans deserve better, and we remain committed to ensuring they receive the very best education possible in exchange for the sacrifices they and their families have made protecting our country.

     Sincerely,

 

 

 

José E. Serrano

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Carolyn B. Maloney

Member of Congress

 

 

 

 

Adriano Espaillat

Member of Congress

 

 

 

 

John Katko

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Thomas R. Suozzi

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Nita M. Lowey

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Elise M. Stefanik

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Brian Higgins

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Eliot L. Engel

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Peter T. King

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Hakeem S. Jeffries

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Sean Patrick Maloney

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Joseph Crowley

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Jerrold Nadler

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Paul D. Tonko

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Kathleen M. Rice

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Gregory W. Meeks

Member of Congress

 

 

 

Nydia M. Velázquez

Member of Congress

 

 

 

 

 

Lee M. Zeldin

Member of Congress

 

Cc:        

The Honorable Phil Roe, M.D.

Chair

House Committee on Veterans Affairs

The Honorable Tim Walz

Ranking Member

House Committee on Veterans Affairs

The Honorable Johnny Isakson

Chair

Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

The Honorable Jon Tester

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs

The Honorable John R. Carter

Chair

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee

House Committee on Appropriations

The Honorable Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Ranking Member

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee

House Committee on Appropriations

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