This afternoon, AMVETS leaders took part in a conference call with Keith Wilson, Veterans Benefits Administration Director of Education Service and the primary representative responsible for implementing the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, to discuss AMVETS' concerns with purported delays in Chapter 33 living stipend payments.
Last week, AMVETS was concerned over a significant reported backlog in claims for the new Chapter 33 benefits, which VA documents confirmed could have been as high as 236,000. In response to this grim news, AMVETS devised a plan that could have helped veterans avoid financial hardship as a result, which was presented to VA and VBA officials on Friday.
After today's discussion, AMVETS concerns have been addressed and AMVETS leaders say they are satisfied with tomorrow's projected delivery of the first living stipend payments.
According to Wilson, the reported 236,000 claims outlined in the weekly VBA report represented the total number of claims that needed some kind of action--such as a letter to be mailed or a simple query for additional information on G.I. Bill benefits. Wilson reported that the actual number of claims that must still be processed for Chapter 33 was closer to 67,400, and that 168,600 claims should be paid out Sept. 1.
At first glance, the 67,400 figure is still a daunting shortfall. However, Wilson assured AMVETS that two-thirds to three-quarters of those claims were only filed within the last month, meaning that the last-minute influx made it impossible for VBA to process and deliver these particular claims on time.
AMVETS remains concerned that 20,000 veterans who did file their claims in a timely manner will still not receive their first living stipend payments by Sept. 1. However, Wilson assured AMVETS that the claims were being processed and that all accounts should be current by Oct. 1.
In recent testimony before Congress, VBA voiced concerns over a sudden influx of claims prior to the start of the fall semester, which appears to be the situation VBA faces today. From the beginning, VBA advised veterans and schools to file all claims as early as possible to ensure proper payment, noting that the complicated new benefit took a significant amount of time to process--roughly 30 days. A failure to submit a claim on time cannot be held against the VBA.
However, AMVETS will continue to monitor the situation closely and AMVETS Legislative Director Ray Kelley has asked Wilson for a follow-up call in two weeks to discuss progress on implementation and to ensure that everything has gone according to plan.
Though AMVETS leaders left the call optomistic about tomorrow's delivery, AMVETS will continue to monitor the situation closely, speaking with veterans and leaders within the academic community to ensure benefits are delivered on time as promised.
If you have an issue with Chapter 33 benefits delivery, please let us know about it by commenting on American Veteran Online or through an E-mail to AMVETS national communications department.
(Image: VA's official Post-9/11 G.I. Bill logo.)