Nearly 80,000 veterans eligible for the new G.I. Bill saw their college terms disrupted last year because the VA was late distributing $61 million in housing and book stipends, according to estimates released by the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General Friday.
Investigators extrapolated the figures in a review of 200 student cases where the VA was late paying out book and housing money to 18 percent of the veterans. Most of those delays were only a few weeks.
But for 8 percent of the students, it took a month or longer to get money for housing or books, long enough to detrimentally impact their school year, investigators said.
The VA, which administers the new G.I. Bill, paid out $5.4 billion in housing and book stipends to 789,000 students in 2013.
The agency has vastly improved its processing time from the program's inception in 2009, when more than half the veterans seeking benefits had to wait weeks or months for their money.
Investigators blamed recent delays on several factors, including the complexity of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill law.
Veterans can be eligible for three different programs and must expressly indicate on their applications which ones they are not seeking money from. Failure to do this creates processing delays and the VA can do a better job of informing veterans about this issue, the Inspector General says..
In addition, the veterans agency has not set a deadline for colleges to certify enrollments and many certifications come in late, creating further delay.
Beyond those students who didn't get their money, investigators found about 4 percent who received cash for books that was never recovered after the veterans withdrew from college classes. The Inspector General estimated that on a yearly scale, this could amount to a loss of $41 million.
The VA, in response, agreed with the findings and promised to take steps to correct the problems.