Friday, February 19, 2010

Repayment of the $3,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Remember when the Veteran Affairs Department (VA) had a heart and they sent out the $3,000 advance payments of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits? I do, but now they want their money back.

Apparently 122,000 people have received a “warning letter” stating they can have payments recouped from their monthly living stipends at a rate of $750 a month. The deductions will begin April 1 and the advance pay will be repaid in four months. This means you will receive monthly payments around $200. Yup, $200 big ones. I know a lot of veterans who live off their GI Bill benefits, and this is going to hurt.

If you are not enrolled in a college or university for the spring semester, you need to cough up the money somehow. VA requires a monthly payment plan, and they want their money back within one year. Luckily for you the $3,000 is interest free.

I took the $3,000 when it was offered to me and shortly after my payments started to show up. Before I took the money, I called to see if my claim was close to being processed and they could not tell me anything expect, “Yeah, we have it.” If I would have known my payments would have started as soon as they did, I would not have taken the advancement. Living on $200 a month will be a challenge. Yes, I do work a few nights a week. If I could work more hours I would but my current class schedule makes it almost impossible.

Good luck all!

More information here.

14 Comments:

Blogger Akinoluna - a female Marine said...

I don't understand why people are making an issue of this. If somebody gives you a $3000 loan, you have to pay it back. That's common sense.

They shouldn't have spent all of the regular payment money when it began arriving, they should have been setting it aside until they had $3000 saved back up. (and that should not have been a problem since they already had been given $3000!)

And if people really needed the $3000 advance AND every penny of the regular payments, that's not the VA's fault. They didn't promise a $3000 freebie.

If people are stuck receiving only $200 a month that's their own fault for spending too much money earlier.

2/19/2010 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger GI Kate said...

I don't think people are making a huge deal over it. One, it wasn't completely clear how the money would be recouped. Would it start right when our payments started to come in? That is what I thought. Would they take out $400 a month? We had no idea. So, I think the $750 a month is a lot when people only have this to live on.

Yeah, you can point the finger and say, "they shouldn't have spent too much money earlier." But you have no idea what their lives are like. Maybe they did save up money, etc. There are emergencies, rent, children, car payments, insurance, people losing their jobs...on top of trying to go to school and achieve good grades.

I’ve saved up money but it’s still going to be a challenge to make everything run smoothly.

2/19/2010 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Akinoluna - a female Marine said...

Oh I know, things up come up! But that's not the VA's fault. What would they have done if all they'd had were their regular payments in first place?

2/19/2010 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger GI Kate said...

It's not the VA's fault. However, the whole GI Bill process was a mess (their fault). If veterans knew their paperwork was being processed in a timely manner, and their regular payments were coming …we would not have this problem. We would have been able to properly plan the best we could. I have been receiving the GI Bill for years and when it ran smoothly everything was planned out…rent, purchasing of my textbooks, car payments, my work schedule, etc. I wish everything was squared away and all I got were my regular payments from the start…I would have had a lot less headaches.

2/19/2010 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Snead said...

I got the first letter yesterday. I love that they sent a letter telling me they are going to send a letter. Brilliant.

So I'm wondering if this second letter will be personalized, seeing how everyone gets different amounts based on your tuition and BAH. And my BAH payments for August, September and October were never disbursed; once everything was finalized for me the tuition money went out and BAH began in November. So, in my mind, the BAH money that was owed to me should cover the $3,000 advance. But I guess we'll see.

And anyone who thinks this $3,000 was a "loan" simply doesn't understand the situation. Because of the VA's incompetence people were suffering. Once media and Congressional attention on the problem started to ramp up, they finally came up with these ADVANCE PAYMENTS to make up for the fact they fucked the situation up. Now given the fact that veterans showed considerable patience during the FUBAR period (and some are still stuck in limbo, btw) and weren't storming the gates of VA offices, I think the VA should be doing everything in their power to accommodate the needs of everyone. Again, nothing about this payment was a "loan".

There is no "fault" to throw around here either. The VA had a year to get this thing figured out and they screwed it up. Plain and simple. Now they are trying to clean up their mess and they aren't doing a great job of it. Someone who doesn't understand "why people are making an issue of this" obviously wasn't affected by it and doesn't understand the need to hold the VA accountable for their past, present and future actions. Maybe one day they will be stuck in some busted program and hopefully someone will make an issue of it for them.

2/21/2010 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger GI Kate said...

Snead - Exactly!!

2/21/2010 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

The $3K helped minimize the interest I had to pay on the credit I had to use to keep the skids greased in the fall semester, but I knew it was temporary. There was no way, at any point, anyone could have assumed the VA would just give us all an extra $3k because they screwed up. Spring '09 they screwed up, and it cost me $987.53. I had absolutely nothing to do with the mistake, but they still wanted it back. I appealed, twice, and lost. No way they'd just toss $3k my way without wanting it back.

My initial assumption was that they would keep good records of the emergency loan payout, and deduct $3k from the BAH owed for the months during which they failed to process my claim. When I was finally informed I was qualified for Ch33, and they'd paid my school (the incorrect amount) I got my BAH money. All of it. Not what I wanted to see.

I set $3k aside, and didn't touch it. The next month, I hoped I wouldn't get a BAH payment and they'd withhold 100% of my BAH entitlements to settle the debt. They didn't. I got BAH payments for Aug/Sep/Oct/Nov/Dec/Jan. Still didn't touch the $3k, because it was overpaid in BAH. It wasn't my money anymore.

My BAH rate is $1500+, as are the rates for a great many locations. I'm guessing the $750 was pulled because it equates to about half of the money paid to the majority of Ch33 using veterans. Unfortunately, there are those of you with far lower BAH rates put into a sticky situation by that figure. Call Debt Management and have them put you on a plan to pay it out over a year - at $250/mo instead of $750 for four months. There's no reason to let this be a major burden, even if things came up and you absolutely had to spend the over-payment money from last semester's epic VA failure.

Snead - it was 100% clear that the advance payment was to be repaid at a later time. That makes it a loan. Plain and simple.

I would be raising (and will raise, on your behalf, if you contact me) all kinds of hell if you have not been paid the BAH you were owed for Aug/Sep/Oct. If that is the case, the VA likely still owes you money (the difference between a partial BAH month, two full BAH months, and the $3k you already took).

2/24/2010 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger Snead said...

Anthony, I'm trying not to get picky over word choice here but an advance and a loan are inherently different. If someone gives you an advance it means they at one point will owe you the money. Loans also generally indicate some interest will be paid. I'm not arguing that anyone can say they didn't expect it to be repaid, I'm saying this was necessary because of the VA's failures and the burden of correcting it should be on the VA, not on veterans.

You can bicker if you want but the simple fact is I took that money because the VA owed it to me. I don't mind absorbing the "payback" into future payments but it should be on my terms, not theirs.

2/25/2010 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Snead,

If we want to nitpick words, what the VA did was not an Advance Payment since they did not disperse said funds before they were owed. They already owed me more than $3000 when the emergency checks were issued. That, however, doesn't change them being an entity with and my being an entity without.

There's no bickering involved. You took money that was offered, because it was owed. I did too. In my case, they paid me everything I was owed after the fact and I now have $3000 which does not belong to me. They get to set the terms on how I pay it back. That's how the real world works.

If you weren't paid everything you were owed, you need to make that right. In such a case, your terms are the only ones that should matter. If you need, or want, help doing that I'm not hard to contact - and any of my contacts are more than happy to help any veteran in need.

2/25/2010 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Snead said...

Okay, maybe I wasn't clear enough in saying I DID NOT WANT TO GET PICKY OVER WORD CHOICE.

But, since you're simply incorrect, please allow me to correct you. From the VA: "Emergency Payments for Veterans Awaiting VA Educational Benefits

One-time advance payment checks for eligible veterans that have not yet received their education benefits for the Fall of 2009 are still available. Advance payment checks are not available for individuals on active duty."

But if you want to argue that the VA was calling it's own advance payment something incorrect, feel free.

You also wrote something that seems in my humble opinion completely contradictory: "what the VA did was not an Advance Payment since they did not disperse said funds before they were owed. They already owed me more than $3000 when the emergency checks were issued."

So did they owe you the money or not? Look, this is real simple: veterans extended patience and flexibility to the VA through this painful process. The VA has every obligation to do the same now. However, their PR handling of this has been very poor, as it has been all along. 'nuff said

2/26/2010 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Anthony Martinez said...

Right, as your reading comprehension clearly suffers I'll leave it alone. As you clearly have either taken the steps needed to fix your issues with the VA, or don't require any assistance I'll leave that alone as well. My debt is settled, and quite simply so. No hardship on my end.

Patience and flexibility from veterans means less than nothing, to the department, as it's simply what is required of us to maintain our own sanity. The VA has many obligations they fail to live up to, but as with the rest of the government, extending patience and flexibility to those under their charter is not one of them.

3/05/2010 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger SHELIA36 said...

Stop the bashing about what people should and should not have done. If the VA had been able to tell most of the people that took out this advance when they were going to be paid, most probably wouldn't have taken it. While some schools were willing to wait not all schools were so generous, some people actually had to pay their own tuition on top of taking care of their other responsibilities, so the option to save wasn't there for them. Besides no two people have the same situation and until you know that you can't judge and tell people what they should are should not do. People aren't arguing that they owe the money the problem is the VA gave about a 30 day notice when they were going to take the money and how much and this is unsat considering they couldn't tell us when we were going to be paid. The problem is they took for every to pay, but not long to collect.

4/16/2010 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger theladypirate said...

My personal feelings on the matter are this: That money was mine.

The VA owes us X amount of money for our schooling. For me, it's $711 a month, plus my books and kicker at the start of the semester, for 36 months.

So it's money I have "earned" the right to use as a Vet. Why, once giving us an advance on this money, would they demand to take it back? It seems absurd to me that they wouldn't let us keep it, and decide how we wished to "repay" it. For example, my last semester of school, I will be taking one class. That would have been the perfect semester for them to start skimming my pay, since I can work full-time and won't need as much from the Post 9/11 GIB. And some other kid may be able to pay back $100 for 30 months. Point is, that $3000 was ours to begin with. We should have been able to have more of a say in how they had us "repay" it from the get-go. How is the government so stupid to hand out $3000 checks and NOT have a repayment plan set up right at that moment? Seriously, it would have taken an extra 5 minutes for them to ask, "How much can you afford to repay each month, starting on X month?...sign here, please." The end.

11/18/2010 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous MikeB said...

In my case, I applied for the benefits before my first semester and I did not receive a penny until I got the $3000 advance halfway through my second semester. I paid for those first two semesters by myself while waiting for the VA to catch up. I got the advance thinking it would somehow be factored in to the money they already owed me for 6 months of back pay. That was not the case.

I finally finished paying that off this month, but in the following two semesters (the month after the advance was paid was my first month of BAH) I have not received an entire month's BAH. They have not been consistent in collecting, one month it is 600, the next month 300. A month later I paid 800.

To cap it all off, I called them yesterday to ask about my book stipend, which I hadn't received (so I thought) and they told me that they had kept that as well, paying me the leftovers of $43 two months ago. I have to buy a calculus book which by itself costs almost $300. Is there nothing wrong with that?

I'll freely admit that I've been lax in keeping track of the money owed vs how much they owe me vs how much they actually paid/witheld, not that it is easy or even possible when they send absolutely no communication save for attempts to collect, however when I called them about it yesterday they told me that they do not keep records on that. I had to write a letter requesting that "somebody" (no real point of reference given) audit my account so that I can get an actual record of my account activity.

Any single person this inept and disorganized would be enthusiastically fired from every job they ever held, and never would they be allowed to handle millions of dollars and millions of people's accounts. Why is it acceptable behavior from the organization entrusted with the care and support of American veterans?

1/06/2011 03:01:00 PM  

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