Veterans Affairs Department officials appear to have a good jump on processing spring semester claims for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, and they hope that hiring more people, getting help from an outside contractor and convincing schools to submit enrollment information faster will avoid delays that plagued the program in the fall.
Officials reported Jan. 20 they have processed 72,000 of the 103,000 GI Bill claims received for the spring semester and are geared up to process about 30,000 total claims a week.
The goal, officials said, is to have all 103,000 claims processed by Feb. 1.
For the fall term, VA received a total of 167,000 claims and had so many problems getting money into the hands of veterans that it made advance payments of up to $3,000 to more than 79,000 students.
As part of its effort to speed claims, VA officials have contacted university and college administrators and student veterans to urge everyone to file for benefits as soon as possible. In particular, VA officials want educational institutions to submit enrollment information for students without waiting for students to receive an official eligibility certificate from VA that shows what benefits they have earned. The wait for certificates of eligibility was part of the reason for delays in the fall term, VA officials said.
There are several reasons to be optimistic about benefits for the spring term, officials said. For one thing, the staff, now numbering 1,200 employees after more hiring, is more familiar with the benefit and experienced in processing claims, officials said. New pamphlets also are being distributed on campuses, and ads are being placed in college and university newspapers, with information about how to get benefits.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a Jan. 14 statement to state veterans officials that processing GI Bill claims remains “an ongoing challenge,” but that with the help of schools and veterans, he believes up to 30,000 claims can be processed each week, with new payments made every four days.
“Prompt submission of information from schools each term helps avoid delays in tuition and fee payments to schools and, in turn, applicable payments to our veterans,” he said.