Doug Jones introduces legislation force VA to pay student veterans missing benefits

GI Bill

Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones taking action in hopes of righting yet another wrong made by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

On Tuesday, he joined his colleague Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in introducing legislation that would force the VA to pay an estimated 360,000 veterans benefits that were overlooked due to technical errors. Money, Jones says the veterans are entitled to, but did not receive because of the VA’s own error.

When the VA failed to implement the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, many student veterans did not receive the full benefits they are entitled to. The bipartisan Fix Immediately Outstanding Underpayments for Student Veterans Act would establish a VA commission at the VA to audit monthly stipends to student veterans and force the VA to pay back students who have been underpaid.Additionally this legislation will ensure the VA does not take back money from students they overpaid through their error.

“When young men and women step up to serve our country in uniform, we make a solemn promise to have their backs when they come home,” said Jones. “We commit to provide them the tools needed to re-enter civilian life and to earn an education that will enable them to serve our communities in new ways. When I heard that thousands of veterans in Alabama and across the country were being underpaid – or not paid at all – for their GI Bill benefits and that the VA might not make them whole, I was appalled. While I’m glad the VA has since begun to reverse course, action from Congress is needed to make sure that these veterans receive what they’re owed.”

Gardner believes VA is failing students by not providing a plan to pay them back the missing money quickly.

“The VA let these veterans down and this cannot be tolerated,” added Gardner. “First, the VA made a mistake and did not properly pay student veterans the money they are entitled to; and now the VA is failing in their responsibility again by not providing a plan to pay those students back quickly. Most problems Congress addresses are complicated and do not have one ‘right’ answer. This is not one of those issues. To me, it’s pretty clear what the right thing to do is: Congress must act to ensure our student veterans receive every penny they are entitled to.”

Last Friday, Jones sent a letter to the senior VA leader overseeing GI Bill benefits seeking answers from the VA about the situation. Jones also joined his colleagues last week in a bipartisan letter, led by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), calling on the VA Inspector General to launch an investigation into allegations that the VA would not be reimbursing veterans for any missed or underpaid benefits.

Read Jones’ letter below: