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Technology problems make for fluctuations in veterans' benefits

Students in Florida and nationwide who are veterans are entitled to receive payments toward their housing expenses through what is called the GI Bill. The Department of  Veterans Affairs has confirmed that software glitches made payments for housing allowances in August smaller than veterans' entitlements under federal law. In fact, veterans have suffered various paperwork glitches over the past 10 years that have kept their veterans' benefits inconsistent and in a state of periodic chaos.

The problems reached critical mass this school year, leading to 15 veterans groups recently sending a letter to the VA calling the breakdown "an organizational and customer service failure" of the highest kind. The letter asked the VA to stop letting students, their families and the schools remain in confusion and suspense while the VA continues to fail in finding ways to restore the system. A change in law last year had an impact on the amount of various allowances, but the VA has been unable to make the data and programming changes to reflect the proper amounts.

VA officials on more than one occasion told the U.S. Congress that the problem would be corrected, but each of the deadlines has passed without reparatory changes. One problem occurred when the VA sent veteran housing allowances based on the 2017 rates, without accounting for cost of living increases. That put about 340,000 students low on their housing obligations.

Generally, the VA has failed to communicate with the colleges, universities and the students throughout the nation, including here in Florida. Veterans' advocates point out that the chaos has an adverse effect on students' ability to function in the classroom. The letter by the 15 organizations decried the lack of transparency by the VA. In light of its obvious fault in these glitches, the VA has announced that in those cases where it made overpayments in veterans' benefits for students, the recipients will not have to pay back the excess amounts.

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