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Veterans Affairs Approves Tester’s Request for Improved Education Payments

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For those military veterans repaying G.I. Bill benefits, the process just got easier. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was informed that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to his request to change the way students repay their benefits.

Tester, co-writer of the 21st Century G.I. Bill that went into effect in 2009, praised the move but said more work is still needed to improve the process.

The Bill has opened up educational opportunities for any veterans who have served since September 11, 2001.

The current issue that Tester has frequently criticized dealt with over-reimbursing veterans. The problem stems from the VA frequently over-reimbursing veterans’ tuitions at colleges and universities, but instead of paying the funds back to the VA the schools have been directed to pay the students. This automatically places the veterans in the “overpayment status” by the VA—making the students responsible for a debt they may not be aware of.

Current VA policy on the G.I. Bill, is that students must repay the VA within a semester, even if overpayment was the result of a clerical error. In turn causing unwarranted economic hardships for thousands.

Tester pushed for a change during a Senate hearing last year and raised the issue with U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on multiple occasions. The latest was a letter in March to request a review of the process. The VA responded with the announcement of a change to the time and flexibility of the payment process.

Tester still sees another area of improvement in whether schools can refund the VA directly with ease so as to avoid the overpayment issue all together. He also, urged for safe guards to protect veterans credit records.

“I appreciate the VA taking Montanans’ concerns and turning them into action so that our veterans can focus on school instead of on needless paperwork,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The 21st Century G.I. bill is a critical tool to opening up education and job opportunities for the folks who’ve served this country. That’s why I fought so hard to pass it, and why I’ll keep fighting to make sure it’s working for veterans in Montana and across the country.”