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    Subject Term: "Debt management"

    4 publications with a total of 14 open recommendations
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should improve program management by expanding monitoring of available information on overpayment debts and collections. This could include regularly tracking the number and amount of overpayments created and the effectiveness of collection efforts.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA reported in March 2017 that the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Debt Management Center had recently developed a plan to track, analyze, and report on new measures of overpayments. This will include the number and amount of new overpayments, average debt per student, and the amount of uncollected debts outstanding. VA plans to include this information in a bi-annual report and use the data to identify trends and determine root causes of student and school debts. We will consider closing this recommendation once VA has produced the new reports and we have had an opportunity to review them.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should address overpayments resulting from enrollment changes by providing guidance to educate student veterans about their benefits and consequences of changing their enrollment.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in June 2017 that the agency has drafted revisions to the initial and subsequent award letters issued to students. The draft letters that we reviewed included more detailed information on education benefits and the consequences of changes in enrollment and a link to a website with additional helpful information about student overpayment debts. VA officials said these revisions are pending approval and the new award letters should be implemented by December 2017 once the necessary IT resources are available. We will close this recommendation when we receive confirmation that these changes have been incorporated into the letters that are sent to beneficiaries.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should address overpayments resulting from enrollment changes by providing guidance to schools about the benefits of using a dual certification process where schools wait to certify the actual tuition and fee amounts until after the school's deadline for adding and dropping classes.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA reported in March 2017 that the agency sent school administrators an official letter in March 2017 asking them to use the dual certification process and to wait to certify actual tuition and fee amounts until after the school's deadline for adding and dropping classes. In addition, VA reported that it had discussed the dual certification method during a webinar with school administrators in June 2016. While these communications are helpful, we believe that VA should also update its guidance, such as its School Certifying Official Handbook, to include this information so that specific guidance on how dual certification can reduce tuition and fee overpayments is available on a continuing basis for current and future school certifying officials.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should address overpayments resulting from enrollment changes by identifying and implementing a cost-effective way to allow Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries to verify their enrollment status each month, and require monthly reporting.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in March 2017 that the agency is developing a plan to add functionality for monthly verifications of student enrollment to its information technology systems, as GAO recommended in its 2015 report. Officials said they expect to complete these upgrades by December 2017once the necessary IT resources requested by the Veterans Benefits Administration are provided.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should improve efforts to notify veterans and schools about overpayment debts by identifying and implementing other methods of notifying veterans and schools about debts to supplement the agency's mailed notices (e.g., email, eBenefits).

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in March 2017 that the agency is developing a plan to update its IT systems so veterans could be notified of overpayment debts through eBenefits or by email. VA plans to complete this action by December 2017 once the necessary IT resources are available.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should improve efforts to notify veterans and schools about overpayment debts by including information on both the cause of the debt and how to repay it in debt letters.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA agreed with our recommendation and reported in March 2017 that it is working on a plan to include school term dates on debt notification letters sent to schools. VA also plans to review and modify the initial debt letters sent to students and schools to include information on both the cause of the debt and how to repay the debt. VA plans to complete these actions by December 2017 once the necessary IT resources are available.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should revise policy for calculating overpayments to increase collections by prorating tuition overpayments when veterans reduce their enrollment during the term based on the actual date of the enrollment change rather than paying additional benefits through the end of the month during which the reduction occurred.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in March 2017 that the agency is revising its tuition overpayment regulations, as GAO recommended in its 2015 report. VA officials said these proposed regulatory revisions are going through the internal approval process, which is expected to be completed by October 2017.
    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, reduce the occurrence of overpayments, and increase debt collections, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure it is recovering the full amount of tuition and fee payments if a school does not charge a veteran for any tuition or fees after dropping a class or withdrawing from school. For example, VA could adjust its overpayment calculation to account for these situations or provide schools with guidance on how to account for school refund policies when reporting enrollment and tuition changes.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA officials reported in March 2017 that the agency plans to amend its procedures to account for school refund policies when calculating veterans' overpayment debts, as GAO recommended in its 2015 report. VA officials said they plan to publish this information in the School Certifying Official Handbook and notify schools and student veterans about the change. However, officials also reported that the agency needs to address several issues with its information technology systems before these changes can be made. Officials said they expect to complete these upgrades by December 2017 once the necessary IT resources requested by the Veterans Benefits Administration are provided.
    Director: Irving, Susan J
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To avoid serious disruptions to the Treasury market and to help inform the fiscal policy debate in a timely way, Congress should consider alternative approaches that better link decisions about the debt limit with decisions about spending and revenue at the time those decisions are made such as those described in this report.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 temporarily suspended the debt limit until March 15, 2017. This allowed the Treasury to continue to borrow to meet the funding needs of the federal government but did not explicitly link decisions about the debt limit to legislation that is expected to increase borrowing needs or debate over specific tax or spending proposal and their effect on debt. We will continue to monitor legislation enacting future debt limit increases to see if it addresses our matter for congressional consideration. As of August 2017 no relevant legislation has been enacted.
    Recommendation: However, if Congress chooses to continue to temporarily suspend the debt limit, it should consider providing Treasury with more flexibility in the level of Treasury's operating cash so that it is based not on the level that it was just prior to a suspension period, but on the federal government's immediate borrowing needs. This would minimize some of the disruptions to Treasury's normal cash management and debt issuance.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 temporarily suspended the debt limit until March 15, 2017, but did not provide Treasury with more flexibility in the level of Treasury's operating cash at the end of the suspension period. As result, absent future action, Treasury is expected to reduced its cash balance to approximately the level it was at on the date the suspension was enacted as it has following previous debt limit suspensions, regardless of cyclical or other cash management needs. We will continue to monitor legislation enacting future debt limit increases to see if it addresses our matter for congressional consideration. As of August 2017, no relevant legislation has been enacted.
    Director: Susan J. Irving
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help minimize Treasury borrowing costs over time by better understanding and managing the risks posed by Treasury floating rate notes and by enhancing demand for Treasury securities, the Secretary of the Treasury should track and report an additional measure of the length of the portfolio that captures the interest rate reset frequency of securities in the portfolio.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury agreed with our recommendation but has not yet introduced this additional metric. As of August 2017, the metric had not been introduced.
    Recommendation: To help minimize Treasury borrowing costs over time by better understanding and managing the risks posed by Treasury floating rate notes and by enhancing demand for Treasury securities, the Secretary of the Treasury should examine opportunities for additional new security types, such as FRNs with maturities other than 2 years or ultra-long bonds.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury agreed with our recommendation but has not yet taken steps to consider additional securities. We will continue to monitor information released from TBAC conferences and in follow up conversations with Treasury.
    Recommendation: To help minimize Treasury borrowing costs over time by better understanding and managing the risks posed by Treasury floating rate notes and by enhancing demand for Treasury securities, the Secretary of the Treasury should analyze the price effects of the mismatch between the term of the index rate and the reset period.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury agreed with our recommendation took introductory steps in 2014 to analyze the price effects of the mismatch by meeting with us to discuss our modeling approach. The results of their analysis was not conclusive and no action was taken at the time. We are seeking documentation of any further action that would allow us to close this recommendation as implemented.
    Director: Irving, Susan J
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Treasury should build the capacity for a buyback program that could be used to respond to potential changes in market conditions during times of deficit. Such a program should allow for broader direct participation beyond the primary dealers. In conducting any buyback operations Treasury should (1) clearly articulate the purpose of the buyback program, (2) conduct the buyback reverse auctions on a regular and predictable schedule consistent with the purpose of the buyback program, and (3) target a few securities in narrow maturity bands at each reverse auction.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2014, Treasury conducted a small-scale buyback operation to test the information technology infrastructure to ensure that its buyback functionality remains operational. In the reverse auction operation, Treasury bought back $22 million of a note maturing on 2/29/2016. In November 2014, Treasury announced that the operation was successful. Treasury conducted small-value buyback operations in April 2015, April 2016, November 2016, and April 2017 to ensure operational readiness of its buyback infrastructure. In announcing the buyback operations, Treasury noted that they should not be viewed by market participants as a precursor or signal of any pending policy changes regarding Treasury's use of buybacks. In June 2016, Treasury officials told us that eligibility to participate in buyback operations is limited to primary dealers because of constraints of the current trading systems. They also said that Treasury is continuing to examine the costs and benefits of buybacks as a debt management tool. As of August 2017 we asked Treasury officials for an update on the implementation status of this recommendation and are awaiting their response.