Yesterday, VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Tammy Duckworth and Deputy Director of Education Services Lynn Nelson hosted a conference call to discuss Post-9/11 G.I. Bill payment delays and progress VA has made through the month of September.
During the call, Duckworth was apologetic for the communications gaps that have occurred over the last two months, ensuring those on the call that VA has made a concerted effort to properly disseminate information to affected schools and veterans.
However, when Duckworth and Nelson clarified the most recent figures on enrolled veterans and the number of pending payments, veterans participating in the call balked.
To date, VA claims that only 27,735 enrollment certifications have been received with 24,186 veterans receiving some kind of payment--a staggeringly low number compared to the 277,000 total claims for Post-9/11 G.I. Bill eligibility.
On the call, Duckworth acknowledged that veterans expecting checks on Oct. 1 may experience further delays, depending on when their school submitted their enrollment certification. Duckworth said many schools have waited until the add/drop date to submit certifications, meaning that veterans may have to wait an average of 35 days before receiving their first payment.
Duckworth also stressed the importance for schools to submit enrollment certifications as soon as possible, since no payments can be sent to the veteran until enrollment has been verified. Duckworth clarified that even if a veteran does not have a certificate of eligibility that the school can still verify enrollment with VA.
AMVETS leaders think the veterans' community will have a better understanding of the scope of the problem once the next set of checks are set to go out on Oct. 1. In the meantime, in an effort to improve communication between VA and potentially affected veterans, AMVETS National Legislative Director Ray Kelley has drafted a letter to VA's director of education services, Keith Wilson, asking VA to send direct correspondence to each veteran in an effort to stave off landlords and other creditors who may be expecting payments in the interim. To view the letter, click on the image below:
"We want to work with VA to ensure that veterans aren't held financially accountable for this delay, and a formal letter could help reassure private creditors that their money is on its way," Kelley said. "VA sent similar letters to colleges and universities, which seems to have worked for now. The last thing we want to see is a veteran who has done everything right evicted on account of these delays."
In the interim, American Veteran magazine editor Isaac Pacheco is experiencing his own G.I. Bill delays. Pacheco, who participated in VA's Post-9/11 G.I. Bill pilot program last spring while attending George Mason University, first submitted his G.I. Bill paperwork at the earliest possible date.
This fall, Pacheco is attending Georgetown University as a full-time graduate student. Georgetown submitted his enrollment certification on Aug. 12, and the university had credited Pacheco's account to reflect the pending payment. To date, no payment has arrived for either Pacheco or the school.
Pacheco called VA this morning to check in on his claim. While VA acknowledged that the proper paperwork had been submitted, payment "may not" be processed for another 6-8 weeks. This includes Pacheco's missing living and book stipends and tuition payments to the university.
As the story continues to unfold, AMVETS will be tracking the G.I. Bill delays. As always, American Veteran Online is eager to hear what you have to say on the issue.