This is an important story that unfortunately got lost in the breaking news about Michael Cohen yesterday. Broken by NBC News, they reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs not only blamed missing GI Bill housing payments on a computer glitch, they said it couldn't be fixed and veterans would never get the money. Morning Joe was on it:
"After a day of pressure, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it will now retroactively pay veterans the money they are owed under the Forever GI Bill following a massive computer glitch," Willie Geist said.
"The decision comes amid an NBC report unveiling officials privately telling staffers they would not pay veterans whose checks were less than they should have been. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle questioned Paul Lawrence, who oversees the Veterans Administration, yesterday. He said checks would, quote, 'be made whole,' also expressed uncertainty over whether it would be worthwhile to make the repayments by spring 2020."
The VA secretary Robert Wilke later reversed the comments in a statement.
"He wrote, 'I want to make clear that each and every post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary will be made 100% whole, retroactively, if need be, for their housing benefits on this academic year, based on Forever GI Bill rates, not on post--9/11 GI Bill rates. NBC News has previously reported that the loss of correct education stipends for effective veterans has pushed them into desperate financial straits over the last few months."
Geist said they asked elected officials what they planned to do about it.
"Frankly, all of them were stunned. They didn't know what was going on. Now you see the VA had to be pushed over the finish line to give the benefits owed to men and women who fought for this country."
"Let's not forget they said we can't do it because of a computer glitch," said Susan Del Percio. "It's insane that that would even be considered a reason and that, frankly, the head of Veteran Affairs is still there, allowing him to be in that position after such a mess-up. I think now we have to look at how the Department of Veterans Affairs is being run. We heard a lot about privatization. They had a whole new computer system they were putting in place that is clearly not working. This is an operation affects millions of people and it doesn't operate properly. So I hope that we will see some investigation into this."
"It's also just worth noting, one of the signature criticisms by conservatives of the Obama administration were botchups at hospitals, one run by Veterans Affairs," Brett Stephens said.
"So this is one department of government you would expect for political reasons the Trump presidency would master and it would pay attention to these sorts of details. it's just another example of the kind of criticism that was leveled against Obama --unfairly, I think, because you are talking about a deep bureaucratic issue, not an administrative issue, and the Trump administration now falling, being guilty of precisely the kind of misfeasance with the same department."
"And by the way, millions of tax dollars were poured into updating that computer system to avoid exactly this kind of scenario," Geist said.
"Again, a lot of people like to thank the troops, talk about the troops with flag pins on, on the floor of the House and everything, this is the most basic contract we have for our troops. You fight for us, you leave your families, and we take care of you when you get back home."