WASHINGTON (Jan. 23, 2010) -- The Department of <a href="http://www.va.gov/" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Veterans Affairs</a> is beginning the process of recovering advance payments made available during the fall 2009 semester to servicemembers who applied for education benefits.

Active-duty servicemembers were actually not eligible for the "advance" or partial payment on reimbursements owed veterans under the <a href="http://www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/CH33/Post-911.htm" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Post 9-11 GI Bill</a>, according to VA officials. They said those servicemembers who mistakenly applied for and received the advance payment may be asked to pay it back or return un-cashed checks.

VA will begin sending out notification letters this week explaining the repayment process, officials said.

Some servicemembers may have been confused, one official said, because under VA terminology active-duty servicemembers are not considered "student veterans." The advance payments were only intended for veterans who had left active duty and were enrolled in an institution of higher learning for the fall 2009 term.

"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, director of Education Services at VA. "Now, we can get to the business of closing the books on advance payments and focus on supporting veterans for the spring semester."

In October, VA instituted the advanced payment process for all eligible students to ensure the veterans 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.

Advance payments were also made on-site at VA offices around the country. At that time student veterans were told that advance payments would be deducted from future benefit payments.

VA discontinued advance payments via the Web portal following the conclusion of the fall 2009 semester.

VA is currently processing about 7,000 education benefits daily, up from an average of 2,000 at the beginning of the fall 2009 term, officials there said.

As of Jan. 22, the department has processed more than 105,000 of the approximately 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.

Page last updated Mon January 25th, 2010 at 15:58