VA tweaks automation, benefits for Post-9/11 GI Bill
February 1, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 1, 2010) -- A new automation system will speed up the turn-around time for veterans and Soldiers to receive new benefits under the latest version of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Veterans Affairs officials said Monday.
The system should help process claims in as little as 25 days, as compared to the 59 days it took in the fall of 2009 when claims were manually processed, said Mike Walcoff, VA acting under secretary for benefits.
Walcoff and other VA officials discussed the automation system now being implemented during a media conference call Jan. 31. They also discussed new GI Bill benefits to take effect later this year under legislation signed by President Obama, Jan. 4
Walcoff added that supplemental claims, in which a previously-enrolled veteran is registering for a future semester, are now being processed in a record 13 days, rather than the 48.5 days it took in 2009.
"Changes that we made and the automation that's been provided to us puts us in a really good position to be able to continue to deliver benefits on time," said Walcoff.
Implementing the new automation and a highly-disciplined process, known as the Agile Development Process, sparked a "new approach inside VA," according to Roger Baker, VA's chief information officer and assistant secretary for information and technology.
"We are highly confident we will not see things go back to the fall of '09," Baker said.
In addition, new benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill were announced last month and will take effect Aug. 1. Changes in benefits include:
-- adding benefits for on-the-job training, apprenticeships, some flight training, correspondence courses and non-college degree programs;
-- capping private school tuition costs at $17,500 each year;
-- prorating housing to the training time and terminating the pay during holidays;
-- allowing students on Active Duty to receive the stipend for books and supplies;
-- counting National Guard service for emergencies called by state governors as qualifying time for educational benefits.
VA officials said eligible veterans can expect to receive direct mailings in the coming months regarding the changes. They said question-and-answer hotlines will also soon be available.
Since 2009, the VA has issued $8.1 billion in benefits to about 440,000 veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.