Senate Unanimously Approves Bipartisan Stabenow Bill to Ensure Veterans in Michigan Receive Full Housing BenefitsWednesday, December 19, 2018
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow announced unanimous Senate passage of legislation she cosponsored, the Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act, to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reimburses veterans in Michigan for missed or underpaid housing benefits. In 2017, Congress passed the Forever GI Bill which was designed to reimburse student veterans based on the zip code they live in and not the location of their school. Following passage, the VA issued a number of improper payments and it is believed that hundreds of thousands of veterans have been impacted by the VA’s processing delays, including more than 82,000 veterans who were still waiting to receive their housing payment as of November 8.
The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act addresses the VA’s failure to fully comply with reimbursement rates set by requiring the VA to:
- End improper payments as soon as possible;
- Establish a team of specialists who will be responsible to report to Congress a detailed plan to correct this egregious error;
- Provide a report to Congress by July 2020 that identifies how many beneficiaries were impacted and to what extent, aggregated by state; and
- Certify the department is fully compliant with the law.
“Our student veterans shouldn’t have to reach into their own pockets to pay for a benefit they have earned,” said Senator Stabenow. “This bill holds the VA accountable for its failures in properly repaying our student veterans.”
The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act was introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), and is also cosponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH). The legislation will now go to the House.
In November, Senator Stabenow sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie calling for transparency regarding its efforts to expedite processing of living stipend payments for veterans receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Senator Stabenow also sent a letter in December to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General Michael Missal to launch an investigation into missed or underpaid VA benefits.
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