Posts Tagged ‘Educational Benefits’

No More Backlog For Veterans Using GI Bill Benefits

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The Post-9/11 GI Bill–which covers veterans’ tuition, fees, stipends for housing and books–has been dispensing educational benefits to veteran-students for about 2 years, during which there has been a backlog of claims. While it seemed that backlog would grow to mirror the veterans disability backlog if corrective action was not taken, according to an article in The Houston Chronicle, there is no more backlog for GI Bill benefits.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initially developed a backlog so severe when it first launched the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the VA had to issue thousands of “emergency checks” to veteran-students just so those students could remain enrolled. The VA has paid out $12.98 billion in payments to almost 600,000 veterans attending college under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and there is no sign of slowing.

At its highest point, the VA faced 65,000 backlogged claims, and each claim took about 60 days to process. The VA has brought that number down to 23,000 pending claims, which is different than a backlogged claim. Each claim now takes about 10 days to process.

The VA took on the backlog by not only hiring more people to process claims, but by automating the claim processing. When the Post-9/11 GI Bill first started issuing benefits, the claims had to be processed by hand.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, a South Florida disability attorney from LaVan & Neidenberg is ready to help. To learn if you are entitled to certain programs and benefits contact our veterans disability rights firm today 1-888-234-5758.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits Modified

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Despite it being the most inclusive veterans’ educational benefit bill since the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill got off to a rocky start. The bill has undergone little to no change since then, but those times have ended. Following a late year passage through the Senate in the end of 2010, President Obama recently signed  into law the Post-9/11 Veteran’s Education Assistance Improvement Act of 2010 (GI Bill 2.0).

GI Bill 2.0 will implement many necessary changes and improvements from its predecessor and will be positive for most, but they do come at a price. The passing of this act will provide benefits for approximately 400,000 veterans who did not have access under the Post-9/11 GI Bill (GI Bill 1.0). Limited budgets however, mean in order to provide educational benefits to these who did not have them before, the amount of benefits provided to some veterans currently receiving them were cut.

In contrast to GI Bill 1.0. GI Bill 2.0 allows a housing allowance for those veterans taking online courses. Under GI Bill 1.o these were not allowed and consequently, disabled veterans unable to attend classes and therefore limited to enrolling in online classes did not collect a housing allowance.

Probably the biggest amended benefit implemented under GI Bill 2.0 is providing educational benefits for National Guard veterans who performed full-time service. These previously excluded veterans alone number more than 85,000, and this number includes Guardsmen deployed to the Gulf of Mexico to help with the oil spill.

Another huge change in GI Bill 2.0, which will benefit about 6,000 veterans, is allowing educational benefits to be used for tuition at vocational schools, non-college degree programs, on-the-job training, flight and correspondence training.

With ups come downs. More veterans than ever qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) educational benefits. To fund these new benefits, allotted housing allowances were cut. Housing allowances will only be paid for those days the veteran-students are actually attending school. Additionally, veterans’ housing allowances will be pro-rated by the amount of credit hours taken.

Benefits will no longer be paid during mandated school breaks and private school tuition will be capped at $17,500. With these new changes, it is imperative veterans ensure their benefits are properly allotted.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

Senate Votes To Enhance The Post-9/11 GI Bill

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Over its final couple of weeks in session this year, the Senate has made many important decisions. The bill to improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill was believed by most to be dead in the water. The Senate however, not only revived the bill, it approved the bill. The vote resulted in the Post-9/11 GI Bill getting some very necessary upgrades. The majority of the changes the bill would accomplish would not become active until 12 months following the date the bill becomes law, however.

Unless the House picks up the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 (S 3447) it will sit where it is until next year. The changes the bill will make if it is passed through the house, are a few years in the making and benefit both veterans and their dependents. Some changes are more significant than others, but all of them are necessary.

To begin with, the list of classes the Post-9/11 GI Bill can be used to attend now includes both technical and vocational classes. Further, both active-duty soldiers and their spouses will be able to draw $1,000 every year to be used for books. Along those same lines, the bill will supply living stipends for those veteran-students attending distance learning classes. The bill also addresses an issue many veterans have complained about being a major flaw with the Post-9/11 GI Bill. If passed, the bill will enlarge the pool of Guard and Reserve soldiers eligible for educational benefits.

The greatest change written into the bill is changing the method in which the amount of tuition refunds for which veteran-students are eligible is determined. Additionally, the bill establishes a $20,000 limit for tuition across the nation and does away with the state-by-state variable rate now in use.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

For-Profit Universities May Be Exploiting Veterans

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

It has been alleged that for-profit universities are exploiting veterans and active-duty soldiers in order to have their Post-9/11 GI Bill money. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Sen. Harkin believes many for-profit universities manipulate veterans and soldiers with deceptive tactics designed to bring GI Bill money into their university rather than ensuring students receive decent educations.

Harkin’s committee has been investigating higher education at for-profit universities. Enrollment at those for-profit universities the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Post-9/11 GI Bill covers with their tuition reimbursement, increased from 23,766 in 2006 to 100,702 through the first half of 2010. For 20 for-profit universities, profits from military education benefits rose from $66.6 million in 2006 to an estimated $521.2 million by the end of 2010; a 683% increase. Overall profits for those same 20 for-profit universities increased 26.1%. Profits from military educational benefits, however, rose 211% between 2009 and 2010. Within the same year, the Post-9/11 GI Bill paid out $1.75 billion in educational benefits. For-profit schools took 36.5%, Or $640 million of that money.

Advocates for for-profit universities attribute the growth in attendance is due to the large amount of veterans now attending school because of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Further, instead of investigating the for-profit universities, advocates feel it should be celebrated that soldiers are receiving educations.

Veterans report being inundated and relentlessly harassed by for-profit universities. Further, there is serious concern the for-profit universities are providing quality educations to their students. Many veteran/solider students never completed their degrees once they started attending for-profit universities, although the investigation did not measure exactly how many withdrew from the universities.

For-profit universities are also being investigated overall for deceptive recruiting practices as well as their low graduation rates and job placement promises.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

GI Bill Claims Processing System More Than Doubles In Price

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Veterans who attempted to use their GI Bill benefits became quickly associated with the system’s shortcomings. Unprocessed claims lead to veterans never being issued their money, being forced to withdraw from classes, unable to pay rent, and the Department of Veterans Affairs  (VA) having to issue emergency checks to cover everything. Cut to a year later, and the VA attempted bring a new automated claims processing system online in hopes to avoid the previous year’s issues. The cost of that system has more than doubled.

The VA’s original cost for the system was $95 million and was supposed to be completed this month. The current cost is estimated at $207.1 million through the fiscal year 2011 and will not be completed this month, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Once completed, the processing system will use a “rules engine software” that guides users through a specific set of computations to establish veterans’ level of entitled aid. The VA built their system in stages by releasing the software in an agile development process. Mere weeks before the 2010 fall semester started, the VA declared enough of the system was completed so that examiners could automatically process claims as opposed to processing them manually, which was one of the big problems with the 2009 semester.

The GAO, however, found many spots where the VA missed critical steps in developing the new system. The new processing system didn’t possess the right software linking the claims to the VA’s legacy financial system, which would generate payments to the veterans. The VA also failed to build a solid web interface in which veterans could track and manage their educational claims.

The web interface will still be designed, but its date has been pushed back several months. The GAO criticized the VA for not setting realistic goals and the VA criticized the GAO for not understanding the VA’s development process. VA representatives referred to their claims processing system as “flawless.”

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

VA Says Agile Development A Success

Monday, December 6th, 2010

For the first time ever, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) used agile development and subsequently declared it a success. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) came to a different conclusion than the VA, and saw needed improvement.

Agile development is an idea stressing the stepped growth of software on a fast and constant pace while retaining functionality as well as strong cooperation between the programmers and the users. In October 2008, the VA utilized this philosophy as they developed a $207 million automated system. The system would be used to process veteran education claims as they began to use their benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

A recent GAO report undercuts the VA’s announced success, however. After deploying 2 of 4 systems, the GAO report found vital tasks were not done on time. This may force the VA to postpone a 5th system’s release or put that release under a completely different undertaking, which will likely affect the systems’ functionality. The VA failed to anticipate the difficulty of converting then-present data into the new systems, and the interface between the systems was therefore never completed. Some of the VA’s online services set for a December release will not happen.

One of the GAO’s main criticisms was that separate teams of developers were operating under different standards that needed to be met in order for their work to be released. Consequently, some work had been declared ready for release without ever having undergone any testing. The VA countered by saying it is likely that many GAO investigators were not familiar enough with agile development and did not understand at what they were investigating nor did they understand their testing concepts.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.