VA Inspector General Audit of GI Bill Payments Finds Many Problems
A recent audit by the VA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) uncovered improper GI Bill payments that could equal billions of wasted taxpayer dollars in the next few years unless the VA strengthens its controls and improves training.
The audit, conducted from 2013 - 2014 uncovered errors in 13% of the reviewed veteran's GI Bill claims. In the examination of 650 payments to 225 students at 50 schools, the OIG found errors with 85 of those payments, a 13% error rate.
Looking at the more than $1.7 million paid out GI Bill funds which were examined in the audit, the OIG uncovered more than $90,000 in either overpayments or underpayments to 43 out of the 225 reviewed students. The OIG also determined that the VA's Education Service had failed to collect more than $96,000 owed to the government by students who had withdrawn from classes or changed their enrollment. The resulting total of $187,000 in improper payments was 11% of the total cash outlay.
The OIG noted, however that "many of these improper payments and missed recoupments occurred because School Certifying Officials’ submitted incorrect and/or incomplete information [to the VA]", and recommended that the VA's Education Service increase the training provided to schools and perform better inspections of schools to ensure they are complying with regulations. In the report, it was noted that 20 of the 50 reviewed schools had not been given proper inspections by the VA. The audit noted shortcomings in the way schools reported course changes to the VA and confusion among schools about what fees are reimbursable under the GI Bill.
Extrapolating the results of the survey from the small sample of 225 students to the actual number of more than 800,000 currently using the GI Bill, the OIG projected that if the VA did not strengthen program controls and improve training both within the VA and to schools who enroll GI Bill students there may likely be an "estimated $2.3 billion in improper GI Bill payments over the next 5 years."
While VA's Education Service did not fully agree with the OIG findings, stating the payments were proper based on the information the VA had received from the schools, they did agree with the finding that school officials needed better training from the VA on GI Bill complexities. They also agreed that the VA needed to conduct better inspections of schools receiving GI Bill benefits to better serve veterans and taxpayers.
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