Overpayments of Education Benefits Could Be Reduced for Veterans Enrolled in Noncollege Degree Courses

HRD-81-154: Published: Sep 30, 1981. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the Veterans Administration (VA) accounting system for recording absences for veterans enrolled in noncollege degree courses. Veterans who enroll in noncollege degree courses are allowed a specified number of absences from class during the established training period. The veteran is paid his regular education and training allowance as long as total absences do not exceed the maximum allowed.

GAO found that VA often overpaid veterans in noncollege degree courses because the number of absences taken were more than permitted during the training period. Usually, these overpayments occurred because: (1) the absences taken were not recorded or were incorrectly recorded, (2) VA paid veterans for absences taken early in training before it knew that the veteran would earn the right to those absences by completing training, and (3) VA did not withhold a sufficient amount of benefits to offset excess absences reported on the final certificate of attendance. VA does not attempt to collect overpayments resulting from excess absences. Instead, it establishes unearned absences which cause reductions in future payments if the veteran later enters another noncollege degree course. VA also overpaid about $13,000 to 34 veterans who dropped out of noncollege degree courses before completing the courses. Because most of the overpayments were attributable to weaknesses in the attendance reporting system, the overpayments could be reduced if veterans were required to certify their class attendance monthly rather than quarterly.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Veterans Administration (VA) Administrator should direct the Chief Benefits Director to: (1) require veterans enrolled in noncollege degree courses to certify attendance monthly and pay benefits based on the information on the monthly certification card; (2) ensure that absence accounting data are properly recorded in the veterans' master records; and (3) revise the VA policy to require that overpayments due to excess absences be treated as normal overpayments subject to regular collection methods.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration


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