Vets who are getting smaller GI Bill benefit payments than they are due because of the Department of Veterans Affairs' 50-year-old computer system will be made whole, VA officials said.
The announcement represents a sudden reversal by the government agency.
At a hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill, VA undersecretary Paul Lawrence said the agency has no plans to retroactively pay shortchanged GI Bill recipients, according to Stars & Stripes.
He acknowledged that only after the question had been asked repeatedly by multiple House lawmakers, the paper reported.
Later in the afternoon however, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie issued a statement reversing course.
“To clear up any confusion, I want to make clear that each and every post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary will be made 100 percent whole – retroactively if need be – for their housing benefits for this academic year based on Forever GI Bill rates, not on post-9/11 GI Bill rates, Wilkie said.
A House Veterans Affairs Committee spokeswoman said the lawmakers were pleased with Wilkie’s announced, NBC News reported.
“The Secretary’s new statement is unambiguous and we believe that VA has every intention to ensure that all student veterans are paid in full what they deserve in accordance with the law," she said.
Fox News reported two weeks ago that the VA's antiquated computer system had resulted in 895 GI Bill recipients waiting longer than two months for their payments and that 60,000 claims remaining to be processed.
VA officials said it hasn't upgraded its computer system due to funds, but a House VA committee spokeswoman said the VA had been allocated $30 million to improve the systemr, The Washington Post reported Nov. 15.
Last year, President Trump signed off on the biggest boost in GI benefits in a decade, but the legislation did not fully take into account the additional time needed to upgrade VA's aging IT systems in order to process claims, according to the Associated Press. The expanded benefits took effect this fall.
Among the GI Bill changes was a provision that offered monthly housing stipends to veterans based on the ZIP codes of the campus where they attend the most classes, rather than defaulting to the main campuses. That meant a change to the IT systems for hundreds of thousands of GI Bill recipients.
Student vets at Wichita State University just want to know what’s going on, KAKE-TV reported.
"Saying that those that....may have been overpaid were not getting any reduction, I can kind of understand," said one student vet Michael Bearth, who served in the Marines. "But to not afford the same respect to those who are underpaid is kind of off-putting to me."
Retired Army Lt. Col. Larry Burks, Sr, head of Wichita State's Military and Veterans Services Office, told the station that the GI Bill payments are something that is owed to veterans by the government for their service.
“And it is not our student veterans' fault that the system is not working, it is the government's fault that the system is not working,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.