In the final days of the 114th Congress, a veterans bill moved quickly through both the House and Senate. President Obama then signed into law the Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016, which addresses disability compensation, burial benefits, health care, homelessness issues, and—notable for business officers—educational assistance.
A key provision cuts the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reporting fee—a per-veteran payment issued to schools to help cover GI Bill certifications. Rates have dropped from $9 to $6 per student until September 25, 2017. After, rates will rise to $7 per student until September 25, 2026. This rate applies to the majority of veterans and dependents receiving GI Bill benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill. A higher-tier fee dates back to the Montgomery GI Bill, through which student veterans could request that the VA submit checks in their name to their higher education institution to hold for the student. While seldom used today, the VA provides this higher reporting fee for the additional administrative work. Those rates have dropped from $13 to $12, a change that will be in effect until 2026.
In addition to the decreased reporting fee, the new law requires institutions to submit to the VA—no later than one year after enactment—an annual report on the academic progress of students receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The VA will include this information in its annual reports to Congress.
The threshold for compliance surveys has also changed. Now, the VA will need to conduct a compliance survey of institutions offering approved courses with at least 20 veterans or beneficiaries enrolled. Previously, the enrollment threshold was 300 veterans. The VA must survey each institution at least once every two years.
Finally, for academic terms beginning after July 1, 2017, the law specifies that a "covered individual" includes someone using education benefits transferred to them when the person transferring the benefits is a veteran who is within three years of separation from active duty or who is a member of the uniformed services. VA will be required to disapprove courses when covered individuals are charged more than the in-state tuition rate at public schools.
A section-by-section summary of the act is available online.