By Debbie Gregory.
When separating from the military, service members have a number of options. For many, the best option is cashing in on their veteran education benefits via the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Unfortunately, for a number of veterans, failure to place safeguards in place can result in indebtedness to the Veteran Administration (VA).
There are several situations in which you may find yourself owing the VA for Post 9/11 GI Bill overpayments. In order to avoid these pitfalls, here are a number of important points to be aware of:
- Dropping a Class – If you drop a class of leave school, it decreases your training time. If the VA has already processed a payment for tuition and fees, an overpayment will occur and a debt is created against your account.
- Change of Enrollment – Make note of your school’s drop/add deadline for classes. This change of enrollment can impact the amount of money paid to the school. If you drop a class, you will have to pay back any Post 9/11 GI Bill money you received for that class including tuition and fees, your monthly housing allowance, your book stipend, and any kicker or college fund money. This might be based on needing to attend a minimum of hours too.
- Proper Record Keeping – The Veterans Administration states that you are responsible for keeping track of your tuition and fee account balance and payments. Checking in regularly with your school’s finance department is a good way to make sure that the charges are correct and that payments and refunds are processed correctly.
If you end up owing money back to the VA for your Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact. First and foremost, determine who pays the money back, you or your school.
The VA will collect from the school if you never attended any classes for which you were certified, regardless of the reason for non-attendance, or you completely withdrew on or before the first day of the term.
The VA will collect from you if you totally withdraw after the first day of the term, or you dropped classes resulting in a reduced training time.
If you have mitigating circumstances beyond your control that prevent you from continuing in your veteran school education or that cause you to reduce credits, the VA may forgive the debt.
Mitigating circumstances include:
- An illness or injury affecting the student during the enrollment period;
- An illness or death in the student’s immediate family
- Financial obligations that demand the student obtains immediate employment
- Unanticipated active military service, including active duty for training.
Mitigating circumstances will provide the VA a one-time only opportunity to forgive up to six (6) credits the first time you drop a class or classes outside of the drop/add period.
If you receive a debt notification from the VA, address the situation immediately by contacting the Debt Management Center at 800-827-0648 or e-mail them at [email protected].