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By Phil McCausland
Paul Lawrence, who oversees the Veterans Benefits Administration, was accused on Thursday of congressional members of school veterans who were not paid the right amount under the Forever GI Bill.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Who is likely to be Parliament's next speaker, accused the VA of "gross negligence" and "a shameful lack of accountability" after NBC News reported Wednesday that the VA had some student veterans Those who paid less than they were due under the Forever GI Law would not repay.
Lawrence defended his representation to Congress on Thursday, calling the NBC report "misleading." He said that all veterans would be "complete". Later, however, at a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, he confirmed that the agency did not intend to pay veterans based on the Forever GI Bill rates until the spring of 2020 ̵
In recent semesters, the VA has in some cases sent late or miscalculated payments for GI bills because computer problems occurred when trying to read two sections of the Forever GI Housing Calculations Act to implement. The law, which was passed in July 2017, was due to enter into force on August 1, 2018, but the UAA announced Wednesday that it would delay the changes in housing subsidy until December 2019.
Two congressional assistants told NBC News that VA officials had told them. On a call with Congressional employees on Wednesday, the agency had decided not to retroactively reimburse veterans on the basis of fees for Forever's GI bill. A third committee official confirmed Thursday morning that United Nations officials said at the same request that some veterans of students would not be repaid "in cases where a veteran would have received a higher allowance due to the place where he attended the lesson" (19659011)] Lawrence referred to the earlier reports by NBC News during his opening statement and said, "Nothing could be further from the truth." He emphasized that student veterans from the last semester to January would receive the correct amount.
"Any veteran of the GI bill after 9/11 will be 100 percent retroactively required for its housing benefits. This academic year is based on DoD rates not yet covered," Lawrence said, referring to installments Calculated differently than under the Forever GI Law. "From spring 2020, we may be able to provide veterans with new installments to comply with the law known as the Forever GI Law.
His testimony made it clear that the agency is applying housing benefit rates calculated by the US Department of Defense, and not the Forever GI Law. Here's the difference: Forever's GI bill requires that veterans receive housing allowance, depending on the location of each campus. VA uses the Ministry of Defense tariffs, which are based on the location of the main campus of the university. In many cases, a school's main campus may be located in a university town where the cost of living is lower than that of a satellite campus in a major city school.
So, a veteran visiting this satellite campus in the city would still be underpaid for "the currently unlocked DoD rates" relative to the location of the main campus, which would probably be less than Forever's GI bill.
Members of the committee urged Lawrence to receive additional information on whether students would receive retroactive payments. Forever GI Bill's housing calculation until December 2019, when the VA expects the new housing allowance to be introduced.
Lawrence said that the VA did not know what the difference in payments would be and how many students' veterans would be affected. 19659007] "It's not clear what the differences will be, and we need to figure that out and work with your team to find out," he told committee members. "Will all processing end with a person receiving a $ 1 check? We do not know that, yet. It is not our intention to harm veterans, but it is also our intention to work the GI Law effectively and accurately in the future. "
Several committee members expressed their frustration that they lack clarity about the retroactive payments made to" students as a whole ", according to the Forever GI Bill.
"It sounds to me as if you were going to give yourself some flexibility, whether you do that or not," said MEP Scott Peters, D-Calif Hören. "You may judge whether it's worth the effort to go back and obey the law, but we'd like to know if these people will be completed by this formula, and I'm having trouble achieving that answer from you, it sounds like. "
Lawrence said it was not his intention to evade, but he did not want to" make a blanket statement that requires a tremendous amount of activity to make any profit.  As Lawrence repeatedly repeated during the hearing, it is unclear whether, under the Forever GI Law, it would be worth "going back and making students into a whole" because they did not know how big or small the Payment fluctuations could be and how many veterans would be affected.
"There could be big differences and we have to continue exactly as you described it," he said. "There could be no differences, and a withdrawal would be energy that is better spent on future claims processing. That's the unknown we need to find out. "
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Chairman of the committee, asked Lawrence if the ongoing issues would cause Congress to change the law so that VA's decision to carry out the calculations of the Forever GI law in December 2019 should wait is legal.
"The law sets out what we need to do on August 1," Roe said, pointing to the introduction of the Forever GI law. "As you said, it's pretty clear what the law says. The question is, will we follow the law? That is the question. If not, we have to change the law. It needs to be changed at another time. Otherwise, you are legally required to implement [the applicable sections] as set forth in the law.
Lawrence said he was ready to do so, but emphasized that it might "not be a lot of profit".
Before the hearing ended, Roe tried to summarize the confusion about the law in force.
"Basically, just for the sake of clarity, we have set up a system that does not work and people have paid what we paid them in the past, and we do not know what we should have paid them," he said. "That's pretty much what we did because our IT system did not work."
"Essentially correct," Lawrence said. "That's right."