Senator Carper responds to GAO report on Post-9/11 G.I. Bill Overpayments

WASHINGTON – – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, responded to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made $416 million in overpayments in fiscal year 2014, affecting one in four veteran students and roughly 6,000 schools utilizing the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill program. Currently, VA disburses tuition and fees to schools before the start of classes, but does not comprehensively account for veteran students’ enrollment changes throughout the semester. Therefore, if a student drops a class or withdraws altogether, the resulting “overpayments” to schools can result in veterans unknowingly owing a sizeable debt to the federal government. The GAO report, “Post-9/11 G.I. Bill: Additional Actions Needed to Help Reduce Overpayments and Increase Collections,” which Sen. Carper requested last Congress as part of his ongoing effort to shed light on the VA education payment system, found flaws in the VA’s ability to track overpayments made to schools and to notify veterans using the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill when a payment needed to be returned to the VA.

“This Government Accountability Office report raises concerns regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) current system for monitoring and collecting overpayments of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits,” said Sen. Carper. “I am encouraged that VA has agreed to swiftly implement many of the GAO’s recommendations for improvement. However, implementing these recommendations is just the first step. The report raises broader questions about the unnecessary complexity veterans and schools encounter when dealing with this program.

“I often say that we must use common sense in everything we do here in the Senate and across the federal government. I’m concerned the VA’s current system for administering Post-9/11 G.I. benefits is too confusing, and that the burden for repaying overpayments falls disproportionately on veterans, many of whom may be unaware that they may have been given too much money and owe it back.  Ultimately, we must ensure that we are not, through poor management of this program, placing yet another barrier to success in front of veterans trying to get a high-quality education.

“A more efficient, modern system would go a long way toward reducing the frequency of overpayments and making it easier for veterans to pursue their education. I plan to follow up with Secretary McDonald on this report to ensure that our veterans are not being disadvantaged by an outdated, overly complex Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefit system”

Today’s GAO report showed $416 million in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill overpayments in Fiscal Year 2014, which represents roughly 4 percent of the $10.8 billion in total benefits paid during that year. GAO further found that 90 percent of high-dollar overpayments were caused by student enrollment changes, where a student dropped one or more classes. GAO made a series of recommendations to the VA for improving guidance and notification for veterans and schools regarding overpayments, as well as developing modern systems for tracking and collecting overpayments.