VA Paid Roughly $1 Million in Double Housing Payments to Some Student Vets Due to a Legal Loophole

by Braxton Taylor

Some veterans enrolled in a Department of Veterans Affairs technology training program received double housing allowance payments from 2019 to 2023, the result of a loophole that allowed them to collect their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits at the same time.

The 208 veterans, enrolled in the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses program, or VET TEC, received an average of $3,100 more per month per person, for a total of roughly $1.1 million in payments, according to the VA Inspector General.

The additional payments were not made in error — they specifically weren’t prohibited by federal law. The VA previously attempted to institute a policy to stop them but was dissuaded by its Office of General Counsel for fear of drawing a lawsuit and the VA being perceived as not being “veteran friendly,” according to the report, published last month.

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As a result, the loophole still stands. Although the VET TEC pilot is expected to end in April, Congress and the VA are deliberating the program’s future, and the situation could set a precedent, the IG warned.

“With the VET TEC pilot program ending in April 2024 and legislation pending to continue it as a VA educational program, the [Veterans Benefits Administration] and Congress have an opportunity to consider whether new iterations of the VET TEC program should continue to allow veterans to receive concurrent monthly housing allowance payments while simultaneously attending Post-9/11 GI Bill and VET TEC programs,” the VA OIG wrote.

The program, launched in 2019, provides training in software development, programming, data processing and other technology programs. VET TEC covers tuition costs, along with a monthly housing stipend.

It is available to veterans who qualify for VA education assistance under the GI Bill and who have some unexpired GI Bill eligibility. Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill also provides a housing allowance to veteran students and some were enrolled in higher education programs while simultaneously participating in VET TEC, the VA paid the veterans housing allowances for both programs.

Several bills are circulating in Congress to extend the VET TEC program, which costs the VA roughly $45 million per year. The VET TEC Authorization Act of 2023, sponsored by Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., would extend the program for up to 6,000 more veterans. It passed the House in May. Companion bills also have been introduced in the Senate but have not yet been reviewed by the chamber’s Veterans Affairs Committee.

The VA has no plans to recoup the money. A VA spokesman told Military.com on Tuesday that, while the law created an “inconsistency” compared with other VA educational benefits programs that prohibit concurrent payments, the law in this case allowed them.

“There is no statutory authority prohibiting concurrent payments to a veteran for Post-9/11 GI Bill and VET TEC educational benefits,” VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said in an email.

Related: Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Education Entitlements Under Different GI Bills

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