Report Summary

Title: Forever GI Bill: Early Implementation Challenges
Report Number: 19-06452-97 Download
Issue Date: 3/20/2019
VA Office: Office of the Secretary
Office of Information and Technology (OIT)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Issue Statement
Release Type: Unrestricted

On November 30, 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) received a request from 12 senators and one congressman to investigate allegations that VA planned to withhold retroactive payments for missed or underpaid monthly housing stipends for students under the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act, also known as the Forever GI Bill. This Issue Statement discloses the information that the OIG provided to those members of Congress with some additional context.

During December 2018 and January 2019, OIG staff conducted interviews with VA and contract personnel involved in the Forever GI Bill implementation efforts. The OIG also reviewed internal VA documents and the results of an independent assessment conducted by the MITRE corporation.

The OIG found that the Veteran’s Benefits Administration (VBA) failed to modify their electronic systems by the required date to make accurate housing allowance payments under sections 107 and 501. These sections fundamentally redesign how VBA pays monthly housing allowances to veterans using the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program. VA lacked an accountable official to oversee the project during most of the effort. This resulted in unclear communication and inadequately defined expectations of the VA offices and contractors involved. In November 2018, the VA Secretary named the Under Secretary for Benefits as the official responsible for implementing the Forever GI Bill.

The OIG conducted this review in accordance with the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s Quality Standard for Inspection and Evaluation, except for the advance reporting standards. Due to the nature of the objective to respond to congressional inquiries and disclose that information to the VA and the public, not distributing a draft to VA did not have an effect on this Issue Statement and there are no recommendations requesting VA’s response.