Several key players in the world of veterans education recently testified before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on the current and future state of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The following is the first of several entries on this hearing.
Senators heard testimonies from representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, DoD, The American Legion, the National Association of Veteran Program Administrators (NAVPA), Nation Association of State Approving Agencies, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Each representative offered their assessment of implementation process, limitations, and problems which have occurred since the Post-9/11 went into effect last August.
Keith Wilson, the VA’s Director of Education Service, testified that the VA had made an extensive effort to get the word out about the new GI Bill program. However, the Committee heard a different story from the other panelists. When asked by the committee chairman, Sen. Akaka (HI), if given the opportunity to change one single thing, what it would be? The general consensus was to improve VA outreach. It appears that the VA view of outreach differs significantly from the panel members.
While the VA made huge strides to get the word out through posters, social networking and ad campaigns, in the eyes of those who administrate the programs, the VA failed to provide consistent, reliable, concise training and information on the policies and procedures required to get the benefits to the veterans.
The problem is not limited to external communication issues. Faith DeLauriers of NAVPA testified that school certifying officials are getting conflicting information from the VA. The American Legion and IAVA representatives also pointed to examples of veterans not getting the same answer twice.
Of course none of this comes as a surprise to student veterans, after more than a year of preparation, the remaining confusion surrounding the Post-9/11 GI Bill is amazing. If veterans are fortunate enough to get through to speak to a live representative, they often find that the information conflicts with what they have read or heard.
But there was good news to come from the hearings. Sen. Akaka, announced his plans to present legislation to the Senate to improve the benefits and address the issues presented by the panel. Committee Ranking Member, Sen. Richard Burr (NC), stated he was happy to be working with Sen. Akaka on the draft bill. Some issues Akaka’s bill is likely to address are:
- State-to-State Payment Inequities
- Combining Tuition and Fees
- Living Stipend for Online Students
- Include expanded Vocational Training Programs
- Improved Training for Staff and Schools
Stay tuned we will focus on other aspects of the hearing in the coming days.