VA extends Post-9/11 GI Bill overpayment period

Army Times

by Rick Maze

Student veterans required to give back Post-9/11 GI Bill overpayments will get more time to do so under a new Veterans Affairs Department policy.

Previously, GI Bill overpayments had to be repaid before the end of the term, which in some cases left students paying thousands of dollars in a few months. The new policy gives them up to a year to make repayments.

The new repayment policy took effect on April 20 without fanfare. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who has pushed for the change, announced the new repayment rules on May 24. VA confirmed the rule change on Thursday.

Tester had pushed VA to change the rules after receiving complaints that students, who often were not at fault when excess tuition and fees was paid to a college or university, were given very little time to repay the money. In some cases, students were put in a position of repaying VA out of their own pockets while waiting on their school to pay them.

Although pleased that VA is giving veterans more time to pay, Tester said he still is not satisfied. He wants safeguards put in place to protect the credit records of veterans who end up owing money because of clerical errors, and he wants VA to come up with a way for schools that receive overpayments to directly reimburse the government without getting the student involved.

VA spokesman Josh Taylor, who on Thursday confirmed Tester’s announcement that the repayment policy had indeed changed, said overpayments generally happen with a student drops a course or drops out of school. “Because tuition payments under the Post-9/11 GI Bill are paid direct to the school based on enrollment status on the beginning of a term, changes in enrollment status after the beginning of the term may result in an overpayment, which VA must recover.”

Requiring repayment in the same school term the money was received is a policy that has applied for many years at VA, but Taylor said VA understands that paying back the government is now more difficult because Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are larger.

“With the greater benefits paid under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we recognize the increased financial burden placed on veterans when debts are incurred while using this program,” Taylor said. “We agree that veterans need more flexibility to repay such debts.”