The Department of Veterans Affairs now concedes that it has to go back to the drawing board and may not be able to make adjustments to the payments until next December, but officials gave unclear information as to when back payments would be made for those who were still left short for housing. (The department has said it will not charge those who remain overpaid.) About 450,000 veterans are affected by the change, although the scope of the fallout has not been quantified by the department or other outside experts. More than 6,000 students’ claims through the G.I. Bill are over 30 days old.
After hearing conflicting information about when those payments would be made, both in congressional testimony and official statements from Mr. Wilke and Mr. Cashour last month, lawmakers bridled. Mr. Enzi wrote a letter demanding more information, and members of both the House and Senate veterans committees also sharply pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs to come clean on its plans.
At a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Representative Jodey C. Arrington of Texas, the subcommittee’s chairman, chastised the department for the holdup.
“We’ve sent a lot of letters, we’ve had inquiries, we’ve had personal meetings,” he said. “I think that the answers we’re getting and the delays, and the promises that we’ll have it fixed that end up not happening are unacceptable.”
Democrats were equally skeptical.
“The V.A. still has another pressing problem to address with the current unacceptable delays in payments to students who are relying on them for food and housing,” said Representative Tim Walz of Minnesota, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House veterans committee. “This is not an issue that will go away on its own, and I expect V.A. to be putting as many resources toward solving the delays as it is toward its new contract.”
The G.I. Bill issues will probably continue to face scrutiny in this Congress.
“The chairman plans to continue to diligently oversee this process and ensure that V.A. upholds the law and delivers on its promises to student veterans,” said Molly Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the House Committee on veterans affairs.
“All four corners of the veteran affairs committee were working to address the issue in lock step to make sure it got fixed,” said Lauren Augustine, the vice president of government affairs for Student Veterans of America, an influential group that has been pressing lawmakers on the issue.