Today, on behalf of NACUBO and 13 other higher education associations, NACUBO President John Walda wrote
to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Erik Shinseki to express concerns with a pending debt offset policy currently under consideration at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
NACUBO learned earlier this year that the VA is considering reinstatement of a policy to offset veteran debts against Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition and fee payments. VA has exempted tuition and fee payments from offsets since 2009. In the letter, Walda urges the Secretary to maintain the tuition and fee offset exemption, and in addition, to consider establishing a system whereby in order to better serve and advise students, college and university officials can access benefit information, including eligibility, that can potentially impact students' abilities to register and pursue their academic programs.
VA announced a similar plan in December but abruptly halted the planned implementation. VA expects the request to be escalated as far as the Secretary's desk, and a decision to be made in time for July 2012 implementation if approved. Currently, VA may recoup debts owed by the veteran from the housing stipend and other payments that go directly to the veteran, but tuition and fee payments going to schools are exempt from debt recoupment. If implemented, this policy has the potential to expose veterans to even greater debt liabilities (from the school, the VA, or both).
Walda's letter concludes by stating, "we fully recognize the fiduciary responsibility VA must uphold in collecting any non-tax debts owed to the federal government by receipients of VA benefits. However, the proposed policy exposes veterans to even greater debt liabilities and unduly stresses the partnership between the federal government and colleges and universities in their mutual goal to provide educational opportunities to our nation's veterans."