Confusion Remains as Senator Presses VA to Reimburse Underpaid Student Veterans

By Allie Bidwell, NASFAA Senior Reporter

Despite assurances from the head of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) that the agency would reimburse any student veterans who did not receive or were underpaid for housing allowances under their GI Bill benefits, one senator is pressing the agency to go a step further to prevent any negative financial consequences students may experience.

In a letter sent to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Thursday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) requested that VA repay any student veterans with missing or underpaid benefits with interest, that it pay any financial penalties the students incur due to the missing or underpaid housing allowance payments, and that it coordinate with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to explain to credit reporting agencies why there may be veterans incurring damaging financial information on their credit reports. In those cases, Duckworth wrote, VA should work with the credit reporting agencies to resolve any negative credit ratings.

Duckworth said those steps are “the minimum remedies the VA must undertake to make the veterans truly whole.”

“The VA’s failure in this instance, and the continued ambiguity surrounding veterans’ retroactive payments, undermines veterans’ faith and confidence in the VA,” she wrote. “It is imperative that the technical and staffing shortages that led to this problem be fixed and that the VA live up to its requirements and make all student veterans who were adversely affected, whole, as originally intended by the Forever GI Bill. Failure to do so would represent a breach of trust with those who have already selflessly given so much.”

Duckworth also sent letters to the leaders of credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—to help ensure student veterans are not negatively impacted. Veterans who as a result fell behind on housing payments or were evicted “will receive adverse marks on credit reports that may result in a lifetime of hardship,” she wrote.

“It is outrageous that a single veteran would experience financial hardship as a result of VA’s failures to provide accurate [monthly housing allowance] payments or any payment at all,” she continued. “It is my expectation that your company, along with every credit bureau, is already working with industry, VA and financial regulators to guarantee that no veteran is prevented from purchasing a home and vehicle as a result of derogatory marks stemming from VA’s errors.”

She urged the leaders to work with VA to identify those who may have been affected and to fix their credit reports and scores, and to help veterans get access to free credit monitoring services.

 

Publication Date: 12/10/2018


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