WASHINGTON, DC- The Veterans Affairs Department is beginning the process of recovering advance payments made available during the fall 2009 semester to veterans and service members who applied for education benefits.
"The advance payments were a huge success and helped thousands of student veterans during the first days of the historic Post-9/11 GI Bill focus on studies and not their finances," said Keith Wilson, VA's director of education
services. "Now, we can get to the business of closing the books on advance payments and focus on supporting veterans for the spring semester."
VA officials will begin sending out notification letters this week explaining the repayment process.
In October, VA instituted an advance-payment process for all eligible students who were enrolled in an institution of higher learning for the fall 2009 term to ensure that all veterans and eligible students were able to focus on their academic studies and not be burdened with financial concerns, officials said. As part of that process, a Web portal was established to allow electronic submission for advance payment, and advance payments also were made at VA offices around the country.
At that time, student veterans were told that advance payments would be deducted from future benefit payments.
In collaboration with the Defense Department, VA also will notify active-duty service members who may have mistakenly applied for the advance payment of their options for returning uncashed checks or reimbursing deposited funds.
VA discontinued advance payments via the Web portal after the fall 2009 semester. Officials now are processing about 7,000 education benefits daily, up from an average of 2,000 at the beginning of the fall 2009 term, officials said.
As of Jan. 22, the department had processed more than 105,000 of the roughly 132,000 spring enrollments received. Since the inception of the new program last year, VA has paid out more than $1.3 billion in education benefits and opened the door to higher education to more than 183,000 veteran students.