Earlier this month, national news broke that as many as 82,000 veterans may not have received GI Bill benefits for months due to IT issues. IAVA’s case management program, the Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) works on the front lines everyday with veterans in need and the RRRP team has seen a steep uptick from veterans reaching out in financial distress due to late GI Bill payments.
The Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) stipend that veterans receive when utilizing the GI Bill is often heavily relied on to maintain basic financial stability. Just as those of us who are in paid jobs rely on paychecks to pay bills and maintain food and shelter, veterans rely on the GI Bill and its promised benefits in order to stay afloat financially.
An unexpected, unplanned and sudden shift in finances can cause a cascading negative effect on anyone, and veterans can be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of this. Some veterans struggle with mental health challenges like PTSD, and physical health injuries sustained in service and this unexpected financial strain can quickly exacerbate these pre-existing conditions, having a sharp, devastating and spiraling impact on the veteran and their entire family.
At RRRP we are hearing about this firsthand. Today alone, we have had more than 20 veterans reach out reporting that due to lack of GI Bill payments, they are now facing serious financial crisis, including eviction, lack of food and clothing, transportation challenges, and utility shut-offs. One veteran reached out reporting that he had to drop a class because he couldn’t afford the textbook due to lack of expected and promised payment. In addition, he now owes the VA money because of this dropped class, despite the VA’s payment screw-up being to blame. Across the country because of these unacceptable delays in payments, many veterans are now facing significant challenges that directly threaten their livelihood and well-being.
The government needs to do better for our nation’s heroes. This failure is America breaking its sacred promise to those that have served our country. As the VA still hasn’t provided a solution or a time line, Defending the GI Bill continues to be an important part of IAVA’s Big Six priorities and we will continue to fight for all veterans whose GI Bill benefits have been put at risk.
If you or someone you know is in need of resources or support due to GI Bill issues, reach out to IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program today.