The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) audited Post-9/11 GI Bill student enrollments that included vacation breaks because of the risk they were not being accurately processed and veterans were not getting the correct benefits.
The OIG found the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) did not always accurately process these enrollments. An estimated 2,500 of 10,000 enrollments from August 1, 2020, through April 1, 2021, should have been adjusted for vacation breaks but were not.
Insufficient training and guidance meant school certifying officials frequently made mistakes. About 790 of the estimated errors involved officials either not reporting or underreporting vacation breaks. VBA claims examiners often mishandled enrollments even when the correct information was submitted. The OIG estimated claims examiners incorrectly processed accurately reported vacation breaks for about 1,700 of 2,500 enrollments with errors.
The OIG determined that the estimated 2,500 enrollments with vacation break errors resulted in about 14,400 days of undercharges to students’ entitlement and about $624,000 in underpayments for monthly housing allowance and college fund.
VBA officials plan to replace manual reporting and processing of enrollments with an automated system. However, VBA still needs to ensure school certifying officials are entering accurate information.
The OIG recommended VBA update guidance and training for certifying officials to ensure a clear understanding of how to calculate and report vacation breaks. Other recommendations included creating procedures for claims examiners to verify information in enrollments flagged for manual processing. Amended enrollments for identified reporting errors should be submitted to VBA for remedial action. Data analysis and record matching can be used to identify enrollments likely to have vacation breaks that have not been properly reported or processed as part of VBA’s quality review process. Finally, VBA should include fields for vacation breaks in automated systems to minimize errors caused by manual data entry.