Guide to the Use of Lay Evidence in a Veterans Benefits Claim

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When a military Veteran files a disability or benefits claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs for compensation due to injuries that occurred in military service, they are not required to rely solely on medical evidence. In fact, since soldiers rarely go on sick call when they are injured – and since service medical records are not always preserved or accurate – Veterans are encouraged to rely on lay evidence or testimony to substantiate their claim. GI Bill

In fact, when a Veteran introduces lay evidence into the record the VA Regional Office (VARO), Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) must consider the lay evidence.

What is lay evidence? It is a broad category – generally, it is any evidence or testimony that does not come from an expert – medical or otherwise.

Here are some situations when a Veteran can (and should) use lay evidence or testimony:

1) If a Veteran has someone that can describe the symptoms of a particular medical condition or injury, it is permissible to support a subsequent diagnosis by a medical professional. This was essentially the holding in Jandreau v. Nicholson , 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007). So, for example, if a Veteran has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he or she can introduce lay evidence of the symptoms of Parkinson’s that other people observed in the past. GI Bill

2) A veteran can use lay evidence or testimony to identify some medical conditions. These are usually going to be medical conditions that are simple or unmistakeable like a broken leg. Sometimes, lay evidence or testimony can prove a more complex condition – like Parkinson’s disease – because the symptoms are so readily recognizable. Compare that to cancer – a lay witness or lay testimony will rarely be able to prove-up the symptoms of pancreatic cancer – though many of us are familiar with the disease, non-medical witnesses are generally not competent to testify to its symptoms or diagnosis.

3) A veteran can always use lay evidence or testimony to try to prove-up a contemporaneous medical diagnosis. For example, a Veteran can testify that he was diagnosed with a medical condition.

4) A Veteran can – and should – use lay evidence or testimony to prove up factual matters within that witnesses personal knowledge. These are commonly known as “buddy statements”, and are competent evidence to prove that a Veteran experienced pain in service, went on sick call, was placed on limited duty, received physical therapy, etc. The uses are boundless – the key element however is that the witness must have personal, first-hand knowledge. A more in-depth discussion of this use is found in Washington v. Nicholson, 19 Vet. App. 362, 368 (2005).

A common use of Number 4, and the rest of the examples, is to prove up “continuity of symptomatology” – a legal element of direct service-connection in some types of Veterans’ claims. GI Bill

If a Veteran does provide lay evidence or testimony, neither the VARO or the BVA can exclude or fail to consider this evidence simply because it refers to or discusses medical matters. (Believe it or not, the BVA does this very thing quite frequently).

Instead, the VARO and BVA must:

1) Make a determination as to whether lay evidence is what the law refers to as “competent” (i.e., sufficient to prove what it seeks to prove). If the BVA or VARO decides it is not competent, they will have to include an adequate explanation of that conclusion. This is discussed in Jandreau v. Nicholson , 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007).

2) The VARO or BVA have to weigh the evidence: in other words, they have to put the lay evidence on a scale against the other evidence that is in a Veteran’s record. The purpose of weighing the evidence is to decide whether it is probative or not. Read more about this requirement in Buchanan v. Nicholson , 451 F.3d 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2006). GI Bill

3) The BVA or VARO may, in certain situations, need to determine whether or not the evidence is credible. Credible doesn’t always mean “true” or “false” – it really just means whether the evidence can be relied upon by the person making a decision on issues of law or fact. For example, someone might tell you that a car accident just happened at the intersection of Main and 1st Street. That may or may not be true – but you might be more likely to believe it is true based on certain factors: who told you, why they told you, where they told you, etc. You’d be more likely to believe something like that is true if the person telling you was covered in blood and 1 block from the intersection. You can read more about this element in Barr v. Nicholson, 21. Vet. App. 303 (2007). GI Bill

If you find yourself in a position where a VA Regional Office – or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals – has ignored or disregarded lay evidence or testimony that you submitted without given you an adequate reason or basis for its decision, you may have grounds to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

If you are a Veteran & have questions about your VA Benefits claim contact a Veterans Benefits attorney.

How The GI Bill Can Be Of Service To You

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If you are in the military, you may have taken advantage of the G.I. Bill in order to get an education when you finished your military career. Some people have taken advantage of the opportunity immediately and others have waited a considerable amount of time and would now like to get the education that they need. Regardless of which is the case, you might be surprised with all of the options that are open to you when you use the opportunity to the full. Here are some things for you to consider in getting your education. GI Bill

First of all, it is not just the person that was enlisted that is able to take advantage of the opportunity, even army and navy moms are able to take advantage of it in many cases as well. Of course, you would want to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs or somebody else that is familiar with the G.I. bill so that you can take advantage of it. There are some online services that can help to guide you in the right direction as well and these should not be overlooked, as the more you understand what is available to you, the more you’re going to be able to take advantage of the situation. GiBill.Va.Gov

You also want to make sure that you have the most up-to-date information that is available. The terms of the G.I. Bill do differ from year to year and at times, there are some major changes that are going to be enacted. This can affect your ability to use the money that is available for college considerably. Be sure that you take a look at all of the changes that have been made since the last time you familiarized yourself with the terms of the agreement. But unlikely, you will be able to take advantage of it but you want to make sure that you have everything lined up properly according to the most recent changes. GiBill.Va.Gov

One of the more common questions that people ask is about the post-9/11 G.I. Bill and what it means for them. For the most part, when you go for any advanced education, the amount that you are going to be reimbursed for that education depends upon your length of active duty. This is also something that may differ from state to state so again, it is important to make sure that familiarize yourself with all the terms specific to your needs. GI Bill

There may also be other benefits that are available to you outside of the educational costs. For example, you may be able to receive some reimbursement for monthly housing expenses and they may help you to pay for your books or for relocation if you are living quite some distance from the area where you will be attending college. Remember, you are within your rights to be able to use this so make sure that you use it to the full. GiBill.Va.Gov

Linda Colaburg is the author of this article about the GI Bill. She had two  sons in the navy so it is easy for her to speak from the point of view of Navy Moms. GI Bill

Veteran Challenges Within the VA System

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Veterans, whether in-active, active, in reserve, or other supporting role encounter day-to-day challenges combined with various human and diverse cultural interactions. Furthermore, veterans endure sacrifices through distance voyages, long-term family separations, endurance, and commitments such that others may enjoy or benefit from freedoms those veterans serve and protect. In addition when combining roles of veterans with other responsible positions develops high-esteemed candidates for any responsible organization. In essence veterans create high rankings for protecting individual freedoms, which unfortunately become unrecognized by Daniels or managers of Veteran Administration officials.

For instance, General Eric Shinseki performed meritorious service throughout his career path. Furthermore, wounded in Vietnam combat to becoming the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. In addition General Eric Shinseki became recognized by the Honorable President Barack Obama, who appointed General Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veteran Affairs. In essence General Eric Shinseki became recognized for his service, commitment, and due diligence within his command structure. As stated by the Department of Veteran Affairs (2009), “Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he led the Army during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and integrated the pursuit of the Global War on Terrorism with Army Transformation, successfully enabling the Army to continue to transform while at war.” GiBill.Va.Gov

Similarly, Honorable Senator John McCain endured numerous challenges from his military career to continued Congressional representative persistence. While volunteering for military service during the Vietnam War crises, Senator John McCain encountered dangerous missions including many low-flying bombing raids from carrier-based operations. Unfortunately, low-flying bombing raids have risks and Senator John McCain’s plane was shot down resulting in various injuries. In any event, Senator John McCain through perseverance and determination survived the crash including prisoner of war activity. As stated by Biography.com (2008), “He broke both arms and one leg during the ensuing crash. McCain was moved to Hoa Loa prison, nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton,” on December 9, 1969.” GiBill.Va.Gov

Additionally, other veterans such as Harold Samberg, gave enormous sacrifices such that others can appreciate or enjoy the liberties, which exist today. For instance, Samberg being a WWII veteran and prisoner of war endured many challenges under occupied Nazi Germany. As quoted by Samberg (2008), “Everybody did what they had to do.” In essence Samberg understood sacrifice and what Samberg was fighting for. As stated by Weber (2008), “Last Wednesday, U.S. troops in Afghanistan flew an American flag in honor of Samberg. He is expected to receive the flag sometime next week.” Hence Samberg as other veterans rank high enough resulting from sacrifices during time of service understood the commitment required for freedom to flourish. GiBill.Va.Gov

Furthermore, as veterans such as me and others endured sacrifices committing 24/7 service toward peace and freedom, veterans such as I received honorable discharges and other medals for recognition toward such sacrificed service. In essence veterans rank high enough through preferences for committing sacrificed service. As stated by Mason (2009):

In speaking of the flag he encouraged people to remember that the white stripes represent purity of purpose; the red stripes courage and our willingness to die if necessary for American ideals; and the blue represents the tranquility upon which our states are united “to hold intact all that is truly ours.

In addition as stated by Brook (2003), “A 20-year military veteran, Staff Sgt. Philip Collins, 49, was days away from retirement when he got the call to active duty.” In essence Staff Sgt. Philip Collins understood sacrifice as other veterans understand sacrifice through respective and courage’s meritorious service. GiBill.Va.Gov

On the other hand, honorable veterans, who understand sacrifice, seek positions within the Veteran Administrations (VA), high-ranking employees inside the VA seek outside assistance for fixing GI bill payment disasters; high-ranking VA employees steal from homeless veterans; high-ranking VA employees require same veteran applicants applying for same position multiple times; high-ranking VA employees collect bonuses as veterans await benefit payments; high-ranking VA employees position files ready for shredding even as veterans are suffering. In essence high-ranking employees within the VA create incomprehensible and insulting decisions to qualified and honorable veterans. Furthermore, as stated by Whittington (2009) and reflecting upon Sotomayor comments, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Similarly, I would hope that a high-ranking VA employee, who has not lived that life, would recognize a German, Jew, and veteran with cultural experiences toward assisting other veterans and developing or creating a wise decision.

For instance, honorable and high-ranking veterans apply for positions within the VA organization, who desire toward making a difference using individual veteran training and aligned experiences. In addition when using veteran experiences, veterans can relate toward other veterans through similar experiences exposed throughout military service. Unfortunately, when veterans such as I or others apply toward positions within the VA, veterans such as I receive insults such as “not ranking high enough or “decisions not made,” whereas high-ranking VA employees collect bonuses for delayed decisions. In other words, as stated by Daniel, “most positions require multiple applications for the same position.” Hence, delayed or multiple applications create VA bonuses or a beggar’s society whilst veterans are exhausting respective lifelines. As stated by Ure (2009), “While hundreds of thousands of disability claims lay backlogged at the Department of Veterans Affairs, thousands of technology employees at the department received $24 million in bonuses.” As additionally stated by Gerson (1990), “…on the inadequate systems to care for homeless people [and! take a hard look at why people beg.” In essence and as Michael Moore revealed, can delayed payments or delayed hiring practices guide high-ranking VA employees receiving bonuses for relevant actions? Furthermore, can delayed hiring practices or multiple submittals contribute toward a veteran’s homeless society? As additionally stated by Scott (2009), “It is illogical to put a cap on VA funding when it is impossible to put a cap on the number of those wounded and injured in service to their country.” Similarly, placing a cap on hiring veterans currently at 30% seems unsound when veterans provide 100% service toward protecting America’s freedom.

Nonetheless, as honorable veterans attempt toward securing a VA position, other high-ranking VA workers manage stealing from homeless veterans. For instance, veterans stand downs are for veterans providing veterans with uplift and encouragement, which will add spirit toward veteran’s personality. Unfortunately, as homeless veterans seek desired goods, high-ranking VA employees find means toward reclaiming such goods. As stated by Scott (2009), “How can a VA employee believe that something donated to a homeless veteran belongs to them?” Unfortunately, as stated by Scott (2009), “..staff will be provided amnesty if merchandise is returned voluntarily…” In essence high-ranking and confiscated-goods employees receive amnesty as capable and honorable veterans receive homelessness.

Nevertheless, as honorable veterans endeavor toward securing a VA position, high-ranking VA employees focus toward retirement, collecting bonuses, or positioning files ready for shredding as veterans are suffering or awaiting benefits. For instance, individuals such as I seek basic information from individual records. Unfortunately, when requesting information, response of “We have been unable to locate the record needed to answer your request” occurs. In essence high-ranking employees cannot locate basic records for implied low-ranking veterans. As stated by Scott (2009), “A letter, apparently from a VBA employee, telling a widow that other employees have hidden files necessary to her late husband’s claim… and, then, it appears VAOIG is investigating the widow!” In other words, if a screening process is in place toward hiring high-ranking employees, then calamities of various incidences would not take place. On the other hand, if attempts toward hiring only a 30% veteran workforce, then misalignments will take place. As further stated by Scott (2009), “…brazenly admits that VA employees deliberately removed medical records from her late husband Robert’s file.” In essence lost paperwork can result in lost payments. Similarly, un-written answers toward hiring questions can result in implied low-ranking candidates. As stated by Maze (2009), “A new report about Veterans Affairs Department employees squirreling away tens of thousands of unopened letters related to benefits claims is sparking fresh concerns that veterans and their survivors are being cheated out of money.” Hence high-ranking VA employees deny veteran’s benefits and create shredding exercises for honorable and sacrificed veterans.

Nonetheless, as capable and honorable veterans seek positions and growth within the Veterans Administration assisting with various claims and decision processes, high-ranking VA employees seek outside assistance toward VA benefits processing. In other words, delayed hiring techniques create other dilemmas within the Veterans Administration Center. As stated by Scott (2009), “In what can only be called an act of desperation, the VA is now admitting that they can’t process claims for the New G.I. Bill in a timely manner and are seeking outside assistance.” In essence processing G.I. Bill benefits requires outside assistance. Furthermore, denied employment for capable and honorable veterans will delay future processing decisions. As further stated by Scott (2009), “…never once mentioning the tens of thousands of veterans who are not getting their G.I. Bill payments on time.” As additionally stated by a veteran:

Great job Larry! Please keep up the heat on these people. My VA claim was submitted by my school to the VA 10 weeks ago and I have not heard a peep. I had to take out a student loan because of the VA’s ineptness. I was told today by the Atlanta RPO that i have 6 more weeks to wait. As USAFRet said, let them all RESIGN NOW! They have failed the veterans, how many of these guys ever gave a minute for their country in a foreign land or at all? TEAR IT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the meantime, senior management is constructing revised missions, which reduces veteran’s homelessness. In essence achieving veteran homelessness shows appreciation toward a veteran community. As stated by Levine (2009), “‘My name is Shinseki, and I am here to end veteran homelessness,’ VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said Tuesday in a speech to the National Summit on Homeless Veterans.” However, as senior management focuses toward reducing veteran homelessness, management comments of “attempt toward finding three veterans,” “not ranking high enough,” or “requiring multiple applications” creates a path of homeless direction. Furthermore, as stated by Allers, Ph.D. (2009), “Today’s conditions can lead to much worse than begging.” Additionally, as stated by another veteran:

There are some good people that are not vets, but for the most part, they should be hiring veterans with the proper background in the respective field. My local VAMC has 29% veterans. The Milwaukee VAMC has 31%. I would bet that is the same for the rest of the country. If that were scores on a test they both would be flunking!

In conclusion, honorable veterans seek positions within the VA organization using education and experiences, which are relevant toward other veterans. In addition, when veterans helping veterans exists, then relevant experiences can take place. Furthermore, when a desired goal toward reducing veteran homelessness becomes a viable mission, then veterans-helping-veterans becomes a solution. On the other hand, when VA managers create obscured hiring decisions or comments, then various dilemmas as aforementioned will occur. Furthermore, high-ranking employees within the VA would not create mischievous activities or require watchdog organizations from occurring.

References:

Maze, R. (2009). Unopened claims letters hidden at VA offices. HCVets.com. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from website http://www.hcvets.com/SurveillanceAlerts/090304Unopenedclaimshidden.htm.

Scott, L. (2009). VA EMPLOYEES STEAL FROM HOMELESS VETERANS. VA Watchdog.org. Retrieved November 2, 2009, from website http://www.vawatchdog.org/09/nf09/nfoct09/nf101909-1.htm.

Note: Article derived from personal experiences combined with research. Additional references or comments could be obtained via phjohan@hotmail.com

10 Advantages For Using Veterans Administration Home Loans

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Many buyers do not understand what advantages there are when it comes to Veterans Administration Home loans. The following is a breakdown of the top 10 advantages of a VA loan as compared to a conventional or FHA financing.

1. No Money Down Required.

There is no down payment required for a VA loan. If the veteran chooses to do so, they may put a down payment. However, the down payment is not a requirement for purchase. Many other loans have a down payment of 3.5% (FHA loans) of the purchase price to 20% of the purchase price for conventional loans.

2. No Closing Costs Option.

There are many closing costs that are required with other loans. Closing costs include Homeowners Insurance, Title Insurance, Inspection Fees, Escrow Fees, Taxes etc. If the buyer structures a VA home loan offer to purchase the ideal way, the closing costs will be paid for by the seller and not the buyer. On average, the closing costs can exceed 3-5% of the purchase price of the home.

3. Seller required / Buyer Non allowable Closing Costs.

Even if the buyer chooses to pay the closing costs (or the seller refuses to pay), the VA will limit what closing costs the buyer can pay. In a conventional purchase transaction, the buyer may be charged for the following: Loan closing or settlement fees, document preparation fees, preparing loan papers or conveyance fees, attorneys services other than for title work, photographs, loan application or processing fees, fees for preparation of truth-in-lending disclosure statement, fees charges by loan brokers, finders or other third parties, and tax service fees. However, with the Veterans Administration Home Loan, all of these costs are not allowed.

4. VA certificate of Reasonable Value.

When purchasing a home using a conventional loan or using cash, you will have to rely upon the appraisal as a means to determine the properties worth. The Veteran Administration will issue a certificate of reasonable value. This certificate is good for up to 6 months.

5. VA Home Inspection.

During the appraisal, the VA inspector will verify that the property meets all Veterans Administration codes. The property must be in habitable condition. The VA protects the buyer from buying a property that is in bad condition. The VA inspector will examine, the roof, the furnace, the plumbing etc. GiBill.Va.Gov

6. Streamline Refinance for Lower Rates.

If you (the VA buyer) have purchased a home using your VA loan, you can choose to refinance to lower your interest rate. The streamline process allows you to refinance without a credit check or employment verification, without most documentation and without an appraisal (in most cases).

7. No Prepayment Penalty.

Most conventional loans require a prepayment penalty. This means if you refinance or sell the home, the lender may charge you fees for doing so. In some cases, this can be as much as tens of thousands of dollars.

8. Points Capped.

Most lenders or loan brokers will charge a service fee to originate a loan. These are commonly referred to as points. The VA has a set limit on loan origination fees. The VA will not allow a lender to charge you above what they feel is reasonable.

9. Assumability.

All VA loans can be assumed by other veterans. Conventional loans require that a new buyer obtain a new loan. The VA will allow you to sell your property and have the new buyer take over your old loan.

10. Low Rates.

The Veterans Administration Home Loans usually have very low interest rates. These low rates are in part set by the Federal Reserve. Many conventional loans have adjustable rates that start out at 3% and may exceed 12%. A fixed rate VA Home Loan will never increase. Your payment will remain the same for as long as you own the loan. Your interest rate is locked for up to 30 years.

Given the facts presented, Veterans Administration Home loans offer the best way to purchase a home.

To Apply For VA Loan, visit http://www.vahomeloancenters.com. To view the article in in its entirety please the VA Home Loan Centers blog. Philip Georgiades is the Chief Loan Originator for VA Home Loan Centers San Diego.Philip has been helping families purchase their homes for more than 15 years.

VA Home Loans

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You must have suitable credit, sufficient income, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to be eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan. The home must be for your own personal occupancy. The eligibility requirements to obtain a COE are listed below for Servicemembers and Veterans, spouses, and other eligible beneficiaries. GiBill.Va.Gov

VA home loans can be used to:

  • Buy a home, a condominium unit in a VA-approved project
  • Build a home
  • Simultaneously purchase and improve a home
  • Improve a home by installing energy-related features or making energy efficient improvements
  • Buy a manufactured home and/or lot.

Eligibility Requirements for VA Home Loans

Servicemembers and Veterans

To obtain a COE, you must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and meet the service requirements below:

Status Qualifying Wartime & Peacetime Periods Qualifying Active Duty Dates Minimum Active Duty Service Requirement
Veteran WWII 9/16/1940 – 7/25/1947 90 total days
Post-WWII 7/26/1947 – 6/26/1950 181 continuous days
Korean War 6/27/1950 – 1/31/1955 90 total days
Post-Korean War 2/1/1955 – 8/4/1964 181 continuous days
Vietnam War 8/5/1964 – 5/7/1975 *For Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam, the beginning date is 2/28/1961 90 total days
Post-Vietnam War 5/8/1975 – 9/7/1980 *The ending date for officers is 10/16/1981 181 continuous days
24-month rule 9/8/1980 – 8/1/1990 *The beginning date for officers is 10/17/1981
  • 24 continuous months, OR
  • The full period (at least 181 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty
Gulf War 8/2/1990 – Present
  • 24 continuous months, OR
  • The full period (at least 90 days) for which you were called or ordered to active duty
Currently On Active Duty Any Any 90 continuous days
National Guard & Reserve Member Gulf War 8/2/1990 – Present 90 days of active service
  • Six years of service in the Selected Reserve or National Guard, AND
    • Were discharged honorably, OR
    • Were placed on the retired list, OR
    • Were transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable, OR
    • Continue to serve in the Selected Reserve

*If you do not meet the minimum service requirements, you may still be eligible if you were discharged due to (1) hardship, (2) the convenience of the government, (3) reduction-in-force, (4) certain medical conditions, or (5) a service-connected disability.

Spouses

The spouse of a Veteran can also apply for home loan eligibility under one of the following conditions:

  • Unremarried spouse of a Veteran who died while in service or from a service connected disability, or
  • Spouse of a Servicemember missing in action or a prisoner of war
  • Surviving spouse who remarries on or after attaining age 57, and on or after December 16, 2003
    (Note: a surviving spouse who remarried before December 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57, must have applied no later than Dec 15, 2004, to establish home loan eligibility. VA must deny applications from surviving spouses who remarried before December 6, 2003 that are received after December 15, 2004.)
  • Surviving Spouses of certain totally disabled veterans whose disability may not have been the cause of death – GiBill.Va.Gov

Other Eligible Beneficiaries

You may also apply for eligibility if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Certain U.S. citizens who served in the armed forces of a government allied with the United States in World War II
  • Individuals with service as members in certain organizations, such as Public Health Service officers, cadets at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy, midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, officers of National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, merchant seaman with World War II service, and others – GiBill.Va.Gov

Restoration of Entitlement

Veterans can have previously-used entitlement “restored” to purchase another home with a VA loan if:

  • The property purchased with the prior VA loan has been sold and the loan paid in full, or
  • A qualified Veteran-transferee (buyer) agrees to assume the VA loan & substitute his or her entitlement for the same amount of entitlement originally used by the Veteran seller. The entitlement may also be restored one time only if the Vet has repaid the prior VA loan in full, but has not disposed of the property purchased with the prior VA loan. Remaining entitlement and restoration of entitlement can be requested through the VA Eligibility Center by completing VA Form 26-1880.

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Dealing with GI Bill Overpayments

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Over the years many veterans have found themselves in a situation in which they owe the VA for an “overpayment” of GI Bill benefits. The number veterans experiencing indebtedness to the VA has increase since the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect. There are several situations in which a veteran may find themselves owing the VA for GI Bill overpayments, but the most common cause of indebtedness is veterans changing their enrollment, especially those changes which occur after the school’s drop/add deadline.

The VA says that if you decrease your training time (i.e. drop classes, leave school, etc.) and they have already processed a payment for tuition and fees an overpayment will occur. When the School Certifying Official (SCO) notifies the VA of a change, a debt is created against your account.

The school will issue any refunds in accordance with their internal policy, which may not fully cover the debt with the VA. If the amount refunded by the school does not satisfy the debt, the student is responsible for the remaining balance.

  • If the school refunds money directly to the VA, they will credit your account any amount the school refunds.
  • If the school refunds money directly to the student, the student must clear the debt with the VA.

A decrease in credit hours can also result in changes the students housing allowance and books and supplies stipend. If VA has already issued a payment for the term a debt will be created on veteran’s account. GiBill.Va.Gov

The VA says that students are responsible for keeping track of their tuition and fee account balance and payments. They recommend that students visit their school’s financial office regularly to review their account, ensure the charges are correct and that payments and refunds are processed correctly. They also recommend that student contact their school’s certifying official to ensure the certification information they send matches their class schedule. GiBill.Va.Gov

Mitigating Circumstances – In some cases the VA is willing to forgive an overpayment due to mitigating circumstances.
According to the VA, if a student drops a course or withdraws from school after the drop period and receives a non punitive grade* the VA will reduce benefits effective the first day of the term unless there are mitigating circumstances.

Mitigating circumstances are circumstances beyond the student’s control that prevent the student from continuing in school or that cause the student to reduce credits. Mitigating circumstances include the following:

  • An illness or injury afflicting the student during the enrollment period.
  • An illness or death in the student’s immediate family.
  • An unavoidable change in the student’s conditions of employment.
  • An unavoidable geographical transfer resulting from the student’s employment.
  • Immediate family or financial obligations beyond the control of the claimant that require him or her to suspend pursuit of the program of education to obtain employment.
  • Discontinuance of the course by the school.
  • Unanticipated active military service, including active duty for training.
  • Unanticipated difficulties with childcare arrangements the student has made for the period during which he or she is attending classes.

When a student terminates or drops classes after the drop period and a non punitive grade is assigned — and mitigating circumstances are an issue — adequate evidence of mitigating circumstances must be provided with the Notice of Change in Student Status. If this evidence is not provided, the VA will not pay for the course or courses in question, leaving the student responsible to pay the school for any remaining tuition and fees. GiBill.Va.Gov

If the student has already been paid for the course or courses (MGIB payments or Post-9/11 GI Bill Stipends), VA will create an overpayment (subject to the 6-credit hour exclusion described below) from the beginning of the term, quarter, or semester.
For example, the SCO may enter the following: “Student withdrew 5/6/04 following Father’s death on 4/30/04.” Submitting the reason for the reduction or withdrawal at the time the change is reported will help the student avoid or reduce an overpayment if the change is for an acceptable reason. GiBill.Va.Gov

6-Credit Hour Exclusion – VA automatically grants mitigating circumstances for up to 6 credits the first time a student reduces or terminates and mitigating circumstances must be considered. This automatic grant is called the 6-Credit Hour Exclusion.

In any instance of indebtedness to the VA, they recommend that students contact the Debt Management Center once they receive a debt notification from the VA. The Debt Management Center is the authoritative source of debt collection information. Veterans can reach them at 800 827-0648 or e-mail them at dmc.ops@va.gov.

* A non punitive grade is a grade that doesn’t count as earned credit and that doesn’t affect progress standards for graduation. A withdrawal after the drop period is non punitive if it isn’t calculated into the student’s GPA & if it doesn’t otherwise affect academic progress.

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Military Educations Benefits Explained: Post 911 GI Bill and More

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If you are looking to further your education and are attached to the military in any way, make sure you take full advantage of your military education benefits, specifically the GI Bill. Don’t let it go to waste. Here are some of the basics of what you should know about your military education benefits and what they can do for you.

Military education benefits you may be eligible for include:

 

  1. The Post-9/11 GI Bill (New)
  2. The Montgomery GI Bill (Traditional)
  3. The Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)

 

What exactly is the GI Bill?

The GI Bill is actually a variety if bills in place to help active military, veterans and their family members pay for a higher level of education. This involves financial assistance for education-related expenses such as tuition, books, supplies and housing allowances.

David Munõz from Colorado Springs, former Senior Airman/E4 of the United States Air Force, has this to say about the Post 9/11 GI Bill that he is currently using to pay for a two  year educational program:

“The Government pays my school directly for my tuition and fees, sends me a $500 stipend every semester for books, and gives me a monthly living allowance based on my zip code. All of this allows me to attend school full-time and focus on studies without having to work a full-time job. It’s working out great for me.”

Top 5 Benefits of the GI Bill

 

  1. The money is totally non-taxable.
  2. It works for a variety of educational program types.
  3. There is usually enough money to cover all educational expenses, and depending on the program, living expenses as well.
  4. With the added funds for living, you may be able to go to school full time and not have to work on the side, allowing you to focus on your studies and finish faster.
  5. It’s good for 10 years after you leave the service and will likely cover your entire educational experience. GiBill.Va.Gov

 

What can these benefits be used for?

 

  • Vocational or occupational training
  • Technical training
  • Undergraduate degrees
  • Graduate degrees

 

How do I apply for the GI Bill?

You can apply for the GI Bill with the Department of Veterans Affairs by filling out a simple form.

When and how do I use my benefits?

You can begin using your military benefits after two years of service. Although you can use your educational benefits as an active duty service member, it is advised that you wait until after you have completed your service to get the most out of it.

Who do I contact for more information about military education benefits?

 

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Your commanding officer
  • A financial advisor at your chosen college campus

 

1 – The Post-9/11 GI Bill

The US Department of Veteran Affairs describes the Post-9/11 GI Bill as “financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.” GiBill.Va.Gov

If this applies to you, check out this list of approved training opportunities and find something that fits your lifestyle. Career-focused training programs are a great way to get started.

Approved Training for Post-9/11 GI Bill

 

  • Graduate and undergraduate degrees
  • Vocational, technical trades, or career training
  • On-the-job training, flight training
  • Correspondence training
  • Licensing and national testing programs
  • Tutorial assistance

 

What might be a little confusing is that they also say training and apprenticeships are not covered under this bill, but are due to be added as of October 1, 2011, along with many other benefits covered under the MGI Bill that were left out of the new bill.

2 – The Montgomery GI Bill

The US Department of Veteran Affairs describes the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) as “available for those who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. Under Chapter 30, Active Duty members enroll and pay $100 per month for 12 months; and are then entitled to receive a monthly education benefit once they have completed a minimum service obligation. Under Chapter 1606, a reservist must be actively drilling and have a 6-year obligation in the Selected Reserve to be eligible.”

This bill will apply to the majority of military seeking financial assistance for education. It can be used for a variety of educational programs ranging from graduate to vocational studies.

3 – The Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP)

The US Department of Veterans Affairs explains REAP as a program that “provides educational assistance to members of National Guard and reserve components – Selected Reserve and Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) – who are called or ordered to active duty service in response to a war or national emergency as declared by the President or Congress.” GiBill.Va.Gov

Eligibility depends on active duty served on or after Sept.11, 2001. If you have served at least 90 consecutive days or an accumulated total of three or more years, you may be eligible for these benefits. Eligibility based on continuous service constitutes payments based on the number of continuous days served, while eligibility based on active duty service accumulation of three or more years constitutes the full allowable payment. GiBill.Va.Gov

If you are a reservist in any branch of the military, make sure to look into these benefits and take advantage of what you are eligible for; you won’t regret it.

Approved Training for REAP

 

  • Undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate courses
  • State licensure and certification courses
  • Courses for a certificate or diploma from business, technical or vocational schools
  • Cooperative training
  • Apprenticeship or on-the-job training
  • Correspondence courses
  • Independent study programs
  • Flight training;
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Remedial, deficiency, or refresher courses needed to complete a program of study
  • Preparatory courses for tests required or used for admission to an institution of higher learning or graduate school

 

Contact your local College or Technical School to find out how to use your military benefits and get your education today. GiBill.Va.Gov

Sources

 

IntelliTec College offers accelerated career training programs in Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Pueblo. Request more info at: http://www.intelliteccollege.com/requestInfo.php or call 1-800-748-2282.