What is Co-Managed Care for Veterans?

When a Zip Code Trumps Common Sense: Determining G.I. Bill Housing Benefits

In an odd and costly turn of events for veterans taking advantage of their Post-9/11 GI Bill, housing benefit determinations are being made based on the location of where the education institution processes the paperwork and not at the campus the veteran attends. With the rapid expansion of commuter and branch college campuses across country, more and more veterans are encountering this problem.

This problem is particularly prevalent among those veterans who attend one of the many state college and university systems. For efficiency’s sake, many of these institutions have a centralized system where veteran students’ paperwork is finalized and sent off. Now, these efficiencies, made to reduce costs across the university, are being used against the schools by penalizing their veteran students.

What the Veteran’s Affairs office does is formulated housing benefits based off the zip code from where the paperwork is mailed or electronically delivered, not the zip code of the campus the veteran attends. In a statewide system, this can add up quickly for the veteran.

Four congressional members, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader, shot off a letter to the Veteran’s Administration asking them to change their policy regarding how housing costs are determined. No response has been made.

In Oregon, home of the four congressional members who wrote to the Veteran’s Administration, housing costs vary widely. Oregon Institute of Technology, referenced in the letter, is located in rural Klamath Falls. A quick check of states that the average rental in Klamath Falls in 2009 cost $639. However, OIT has many branch campuses, including one in Wilsonville, a short distance from the metropolitan city of Portland. Wilsonville’s average rental in 2009 was $864, a $225 increase, almost 1/3 more than Klamath Falls.

Now imagine a service member coming back home to live in Miami, taking courses from a branch campus of university upstate. You have the possibility of not just $225 but several hundred dollars more in housing benefit differences each month.

On the flip side of the coin, some veterans are being overpaid. Similar to the scenario above, an upstate Florida veteran student may be taking courses at a branch campus of a university based in Miami. In this case, housing is based on Miami prices, where the paperwork is processed, rather than at the less expensive zip code where the veteran actually lives and attends school.

Even Senator Ron Wyden, a 31-year veteran of congressional office, admits that the housing benefits formulation process “seems odd even by Washington, D.C. standards.”

Compound this with the 2012 change in housing benefits not being paid when school is on break, and you have the makings of some serious financial conflicts for our veterans. Veterans should not be placed in the position of choosing between a second job, maintaining a good grade point average, or substandard housing while they go to school. Contact your state’s congressional members and urge them to contact the Veteran’s Administration in order to rectify this discrepancy.

Share This