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Lawmakers And Veterans To The VA: Shut Up And Pay Up
The VA has a message for veterans: We will absolutely make you whole again.
"Each and every post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary will be made 100 percent whole – retroactively if need be – for their housing benefits for this academic year based on Forever GI Bill rates, not on post-9/11 GI Bill rates," Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement on Thursday, following sharp questions from lawmakers regarding late payments to veterans on everything from college tuition to housing payments.
On Wednesday, NBC News reported, citing two House Veterans Affairs Committee aides, that "it would not reimburse those veterans who were paid less than they were owed" due to delayed or inaccurate GI Bill disbursements that arose from the VA's new computer system — a statement that appeared to renege on the VA's promise to furnish thousands of vets with the money they deserve.
"Although VA has encountered issues with implementing the Forever GI Bill on Congress’ timeline, we will work with lawmakers to ensure that – once VA is in a position to process education claims in accordance with the new law – each and every beneficiary will receive retroactively the exact benefits to which they are entitled under that law," Wilkie said.
Indeed, the VA had announced an interim solution to the faulty processing of GI Bill benefits on Wednesday morning, hours before the NBC News report sent a ripple of anger through the veterans community, stipulating that it would delay the implementation of the Forever GI Bill and "correct retroactively any underpayments" in housing allowances for veterans while it worked to fix the technology implementation issues that have plagued the system for months.
So far, however, lawmakers and veterans organizations are less than confident that the VA's stopgap won't actually require its own stopgap down the line.
"For the past 11 months, VA has continually failed to deliver a functioning IT system that can process housing payments as dictated by the law,” said Rep. Tim Walz, Democrat from Minnesota and ranking member on HVAC, in a statement. “The changes VA announced today, however, raise more concerns than confidence that student veterans will be taken care of anytime soon.”
California Democrat Rep. Mark Takano, the vice ranking member of HVAC, characterized the VA's announcement as "extremely disconcerting."
"If this process and the reoccurring technical failures at the VA have taught us anything, it’s that the underlying issues causing these delays – IT failures – must be addressed and fixed for any contractor to successfully implement these provisions," Takano said in a statement. "If this is not done, I am skeptical that the VA will be able to meet the new deadline they put in place."
“Shifting the implementation deadline a year isn’t a free pass for the VA to arbitrarily pay student veterans less than they are due simply because it was unable to correct internal problems in time,” VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence said in a statement.
This lack of faith isn't unwarranted. The last time Wilkie signed his name to call for confidence in the VA, it was in a galling Nov. 16 op-ed in USA Today claiming that the Trump administration has kept its promises when it comes to America's veterans.
"Until Trump, no candidate in history had made serving our veterans the centerpiece of a presidential campaign," he wrote. "In office, Trump has kept his promise, improving the lives of America’s veterans through a number of key initiatives that enact more reform across the organization than at any other time in decades."
At least 4 American veterans among group arrested in Haiti with arsenal of weapons and tactical gear
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if the employee behind a firearm company's Facebook page decided to goaded a bunch of Marines into destroying their brand new firearms? Now you know.
A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.
"That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.
Later, Graham told Shanahan, "I am now your adversary, not your friend."
If you are in the market for any size of military surplus vehicle, keep an eye on GovPlanet. The online auction house is about to start selling U.S. Navy and Marine Corps surplus M1161 ITV Growlers and seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement trucks.
The White House will keep challenging the Pentagon on the threat of climate change until it gets an answer it likes
The definition of insanity, the old saying goes, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result — a definition that applies perfectly to the Trump administration's response to the looming national security threat of global climate change.