***VIDEO FILE INCLUDED*** Rep. Lee Proposes Solutions to Ease GI Bill Overpayments Burden on Student Veterans
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Susie Lee (Nev.-03), a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, spoke yesterday in support of her and Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis’s (Fla.-12) proposed bipartisan bill, the Class Evaluation Act, which would help ease the burden of GI Bill overpayments on student veterans.
Below are Rep. Lee’s remarks to the subcommittee in support of her proposed legislation, as prepared for delivery:
“The Class Evaluation Act is a commonsense solution to an incredibly salient problem facing student veterans: GI Bill overpayments.
“GI Bill overpayments occur when the VA pays out more in tuition and fees than a student’s semester course load ends up requiring. This may be due to a change in schedule, a dropped class, a school closing, or a myriad of factors that cause course loads to change at the start of a new semester - after the VA has already sent over their GI Bill payments. In these cases, the student veteran is caught holding the bag and left responsible for reimbursing the VA for any overpayments.
“It is estimated that GI Bill overpayments affect one in four student veterans and cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions in wasted federal funds each year.
“Put simply, GI bill overpayments are a waste of taxpayer funds and an added burden to student veterans.
“The Class Evaluation Act works to prevent GI Bill overpayments by mandating the VA waits seven days into a term before paying schools. By delaying GI bill payments for one week, students would have the flexibility and peace of mind to make necessary changes to their class schedule and course load within the first week of a semester, without worrying about being held personally responsible for any overpayments by the VA. In addition, the bill also ensures that student veterans are not charged for late fees during this period.
“It is also important to note that this bill also works to address cases we have seen where schools in financial distress have collected VA funds at the beginning of a term, then abruptly closed, leaving the VA out thousands of dollars and student veterans left holding the bag.
“It is estimated that the net savings to the VA from this bill would be roughly $120 million over 10 years. These are taxpayer funds that, if not wasted on overpayments, could be put toward numerous other critical VA programs supporting student veterans.”
In her remarks, Rep. Lee highlighted that the Class Evaluation Act is her second legislative step to reduce the burden of GI Bill overpayments on student veterans:
“To address this issue, last October, I introduced the Student Veteran Protection Act, a bill that would shift the financial burden of GI Bill overpayments from the veteran to the school—in short, ensuring that the responsibility lies on the school to reimburse the VA, not the student. I am pleased that this bill passed the House in November as part of the Protect the GI Bill Act, a clear step in the right direction.
“Now today, I am excited to be here to take our efforts to address GI Bill overpayments a step further. My bill we are discussing today, the Class Evaluation Act, is a bipartisan, commonsense solution to prevent these overpayments from happening in the first place.”
BACKGROUND: In November 2019, Reps. Lee and Jim Banks’s (Ind.-03) bipartisan bill, the Student Veteran Protection Act, passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support as part of Rep. Mike Levin’s (Calif.-49) Protect the GI Bill Act. The Student Veteran Protection Act helps student veterans by shifting the financial burdens of GI Bill overpayments from the students to the schools.
A 2015 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found the VA identified $416 million in overpayments under educational assistance program during fiscal year 2014, affecting approximately one in four veteran beneficiaries and about 6,000 schools. By making overpayments the responsibility of schools instead of students, schools would return overpayments directly to the VA, instead of sending the payments to students who would then be responsible for reimbursing the VA. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), schools return 97.7 percent of overpayments when a student’s enrollment status changes, however students only return 87 percent of those overpayments to the VA – causing veterans to lose benefits over time. By simplifying the overpayment process, CBO estimates this section will save the VA an estimated $120 million over 10 years.