Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, November 29, 2018 which is Throw Out Your Leftovers Day, National Square Dance Day, Electronic Greeting Card Day and Customer is Wrong Day.
This Day in TAL History:
- Nov. 29, 1943: Armed with hundreds of case studies from across the country, representing nearly every congressional district, American Legion National Commander Warren Atherton presents to the House Veterans Affairs Committee voice after voice of disabled GIs awaiting word on benefits, unable to get medical treatment, relying on their families, churches, charities and Legion posts for whatever help they can get. His goal is to gain support of an omnibus bill to assist military veterans in the readjustment process to civilian life.
- Nov. 29, 1978: The American Legion of Iowa Foundation is incorporated, inspired by Past National Commander Hanford MacNider of the Hawkeye State, whose “Iowa Idea” triggered thousands of community improvement projects across the country over 50 years earlier. The foundation raises and distributes funds for worthy local projects on a grant basis. Over the next 30 years, the foundation awards nearly $2.5 million for activities ranging from Junior ROTC to medical supplies for clinics to museum exhibits to remember POWs and MIAs and college scholarships.
This Day in History:
- 1950: Three weeks after U.S. General Douglas MacArthur first reported Chinese communist troops in action in North Korea, U.S.-led U.N. troops begin a desperate retreat out of North Korea under heavy fire from the Chinese.
- American explorer Richard Byrd and three companions make the first flight over the South Pole, flying from their base on the Ross Ice Shelf to the pole and back in 18 hours and 41 minutes. Richard Evelyn Byrd learned how to fly in the U.S. Navy and served as a pilot in World War I. An excellent navigator, he was deployed by the navy to Greenland in 1924 to help explore the Arctic region by air. Enamored with the experience of flying over glaciers and sea ice, he decided to attempt the first flight over the North Pole.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- NBC News: Veterans Affairs delays GI Bill housing allowance changes for year due to computer problems
- Military.com: Thousands to See GI Bill Housing Payment Bump
- Foreign Policy: Senate Advances Resolution to End U.S. Support for Saudi-Led War in Yemen
- T&P: US Military Says It Can’t Take Out Remaining ISIS Fighters Because They’re Hiding In Tunnels
- Army Times: This fallen Afghanistan war hero is about to get the Army’s second-highest valor award
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NBC News: Veterans Affairs delays GI Bill housing allowance changes for year due to computer problems
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday that it would be more than a year before it will be able to correctly calculate veterans’ housing allowance under the Forever GI Bill.
Nov. 28, 2018 / 3:26 PM UEST
By Phil McCausland
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday that it will be more than a year before it will be able to correctly calculate veterans’ housing allowance under the Forever GI Bill that President Donald Trump signed in July 2017.
The federal agency has regularly blown through a series of promised deadlines to finally implement the law over the past year because their IT systems struggled to apply the changes, which required that housing benefits be calculated based on where veterans go to school rather than where they live.
Those delays created a backlog of veterans’ claims three times higher than normal, the VA said. The situation forced many veterans to face difficult financial circumstances as payments were delayed with little to no warning.
"Redesigning the way VBA [Veterans Benefits Administration] calculates Post 9/11 GI Bill housing rates during a busy academic season was like flying a plane while building it, and that was unfair and frustrating to Veterans and taxpayers," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. "That’s why we are resetting our implementation of the law for the next year to ensure we get the technology and formula right to put Veterans first."
Wilkie directed Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence to delay the implementation of the law’s changes until December 2019, "to give the department the time, contracting support and resources necessary to develop the capability to process Spring 2020 enrollment," according go the VA statement.
In the meantime, VBA will pay its GI Bill benefits based on the Department of Defense’s Basic Housing Allowance rates, which the VA said should be equal to or higher than what veterans are owed. The VA said it will not attempt to recoup the difference in cases when the payment is too high and it will correct any underpayments.
Lawrence attempted to address some of these issues when he testified before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee this month, which came after numerous reports that veterans who had budgeted for their GI Bill payment faced mounting debt and the possibility of eviction.
At the hearing Lawrence refused to provide the committee an estimate when the IT issues that had plagued the law’s implementation would be fixed.
“That was a mistake to give you a day,” Lawrence said, referring to previous congressional hearings when VBA had provided an exact time frame. "We did not understand the certainty around it. That is why we are not giving you a date."
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn, the chairman of the house veterans’ affairs committee, told NBC News after the hearing this month that he was concerned the VA would burn through a large amount of taxpayer dollars before it found a solution and guessed that it would take the VA at least a year to implement the changes.
But in an email on Wednesday the chairman said that he was pleased by the decision and said he would continue his oversight efforts of the VA on the committee.
“I am glad that Secretary Wilkie is taking diligent steps to ensure that VA acquires a functioning IT System and will ensure that monthly housing payments are made with minimal delays,” Roe said. “It is imperative that the steps VA takes to fix this unacceptable situation are made swiftly and correctly.”
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, noted in a statement that Congress provides the VA’s Office of Information Technology more than $4 billion a year, adding that the federal agency needed "to be held accountable to produce smart IT solutions that work for veterans and the VA workforce."
He added, however, that he understood Wilkie’s decision to delay the changes.
"Right now, the VA’s priority must be to ensure accurate payments are sent to student veterans in a timely manner," Isakson said. "Student veterans rely on the G.I. Bill to support themselves and their families while they are in school, and the VA is responsible for keeping those payments going, even as it implements the new law."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The VA said it had 74,000 education claims as of Nov. 16, which included claims as new as a day old. More than 63,000 have been pending fewer than 30 days, nearly 10,000 were 30 to 60 days old, and about 900 were older than 60 days.
The federal agency said that it processed more than 700,000 education claims this fall, but the VA noted that “less than 4.5 percent” — or more than 30,000 — “of those processed were pending for more than 60 days.”
The VA denied that thousands of veterans had waited months for their GI Bill benefit payments and that some veterans had been made homeless because of the delays.
CORRECTION (Nov. 28, 2018, 4:50 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated the amount of time the VA left more than 63,000 education claims pending. They have been pending fewer than 30 days, not longer than 30 days.
Military.com: Thousands to See GI Bill Housing Payment Bump
28 Nov 2018
Military.com | By Amy Bushatz
Thousands of veterans using the post-9/11 GI Billcould see larger monthly housing allowance payments as the Department of Veterans Affairsbackpedals changes to how payments are calculated in an attempt to dig out from a backlog sparked by antiquated technology.
That Basic Allowance for Housing bump, officials said in a Nov. 28 policy announcement, will be in addition to any back pay owed veteran students as a result of the backlog. And students who were inadvertently overpaid because of the technology problems will be permitted to keep the extra money.
Details on exactly how much extra students could receive monthly as a result of the new policy, or what reverting to the old system after months of attempts to implement the new payment structure will ultimately cost taxpayers, were not immediately available. The increase will run through Dec. 1, 2019, the policy states.
The students who will benefit most from the change — and who were likely also impacted by payment delays early in the fall 2018 semester — are those who started using their post-9/11 GI Bill benefit after Jan. 1 of this year.
That’s because those students were subject to a series of housing rate changes ordered by Congress last year as part of the Forever GI Bill.
That law first required VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to base housing payments on a student’s physical address, not the location of the school’s main campus. That meant students attending a school’s satellite campus, for example, could receive lower payments than in the past.
A change was also ordered to the way BAH is calculated for GI Bill users to match how it’s given to active-duty troops. Rather than the full BAH amount, Defense Department recipients have their allotments docked by five percent in an attempt by Congress to curb inflation. That means GI Bill users who first enrolled this year are by law to receive a lower GI Bill payment than students who started using the benefit prior to Jan. 1.
But the complexity of those new calculations required the VA to update its software, which in turn caused system problems and sparked a September claims backlog three times higher than normal for the start of the fall semester.
Wednesday’s VA policy announcement puts a hold on all housing payment changes in an attempt to give the agency time to update its systems before the new Dec. 1, 2019, deadline.
"Redesigning the way VBA calculates Post-9/11 GI Bill housing rates during a busy academic season was like flying a plane while building it, and that was unfair and frustrating to veterans and taxpayers. That’s why we are resetting our implementation of the law for the next year to ensure we get the technology and formula right to put veterans first," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. "In the meantime, beneficiaries receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill housing allowances will be paid at the DoD BAH rate, which in many cases will be equal to or higher than their current payment."
Veterans advocates said they are pleased the VA has recognized and is addressing the problem.
"Student Veterans of America applauds the VA for acknowledging its changes to GI Bill payments were made in a way that was unfair and frustrating to student veterans, and SVA welcomes the VA’s efforts to make it right and especially their commitment to remain in communication to ensure everyone knows what to expect," Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America, said in a statement.
VA officials said the payment backlog is currently at a level the agency considers normal after sitting three times higher than usual in early September. As of Nov. 16, about 74,000 claims are sitting in the VA’s queue, representing all kinds of GI Bill payments, including new enrollments and program changes, officials said.
Of those, about 63,400 are less than 30 days old, while about 11,000 are older. Currently, the average claim is processed within 16 days, about two days longer than the VA’s 14-day goal for all but new claims.