Update on Post 9/11 GI Bill MHA Delayed Payment for March 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 27, 2023) – On March 30, 2023, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) notified Congress, VSOs, and the media about an issue that could delay MHA payments for GI Bill students. Ultimately, VA was able to avoid payment delays for most GI Bill students by taking “extraordinary measures,” which ensured these students received their MHA the same day as originally expected. For the roughly 4,000 GI Bill beneficiaries who receive their MHA payments by check, VA indicates it cut those checks “immediately” and that those students should have received their payments by April 5th.
VA reports that the underlying cause for the payment issue was related to an “incorrect configuration” with a newly released system for certifying student’s benefits. In conjunction with scheduled maintenance for VA’s underlying Benefits Delivery Network, this configuration error caused an unintentional pause to the MHA disbursement process, resulting in a potential payment delay.
VA indicates it has strong confidence that future MHA will be paid on time because it is taking several steps to avoid similar issues going forward. Among other things, the Department reports it is implementing and updating monitoring and alert systems as well as system operating procedures. VA also says it is conducting a risk analysis of relevant systems.
Student Veterans of America will continue to monitor GI Bill payments and hold VA accountable to ensure students receive their benefits in a timely manner.
Information below provided by VA
BACKGROUND: The Digital GI Bill (DGIB) runs a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) payment transmission to the Benefits Delivery Network (BDN) at the end of every month. Last month (March 2023), this process failed for approximately 282,000 total student Veterans and beneficiaries who were entitled to approximately $400 million in housing stipends as a part of their earned GI Bill benefits. Upon learning of this problem, we implemented extraordinary measures to minimize any disruption for these Veterans. As a result of these efforts, approximately 278,000 Veterans received their monthly housing payments for March the same day as scheduled (albeit in the afternoon vice the morning). For the remaining 4,000 Veterans who receive their monthly payment via paper check, the Department of Treasury printed those immediately and Veterans should have received those by approximately April 5th
ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS: VA’s Root Cause Analysis (RCA) determined that as part of Release 5 of the DGIB, which introduced the Enrollment Manager, an incorrect configuration was applied to the payment queuing service that made it dependent upon BDN availability. When the payment queuing function determined BDN was down for scheduled maintenance, it paused the queuing service until the next day, resulting in the housing payments failing to process on schedule. In addition, lack of sufficient monitoring and alert systems delayed this problem from being elevated and addressed immediately.
NEXT STEPS: VBA has a high level of confidence that we will be able to pay the MHA on time and without issues in April based on the RCA and our monitoring and alerting processes and systems. DGIB has technical monitoring and alerting implemented to include monitoring of services, log aggregation, dashboarding, availability of partner systems, downtime, and critical health alerting. This was recently augmented with new business operations monitoring to help catch situations like the MHA payment issue in the future. We are also working to identify additional Operations Report thresholds for alerting and automated checks that will be implemented incrementally while manual checks continue daily.
In addition, we are producing a punch list of system dependencies for all future systems releases, to ensure there are no unintended impacts that may affect payment. We are also finalizing a Standard Operating Procedure to ensure appropriate and timely escalation and triage of these types of issues moving forward. Finally, the team is conducting an environmental assessment of all VBA systems to assess for risk of the magnitude we experienced with the MHA payment issue.
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With a focused mission on empowering student veterans, Student Veterans of America (SVA) is committed to providing an educational experience that goes beyond the classroom. Through a dedicated network of nearly 1,600 on-campus chapters in all 50 states and 4 countries representing more than 750,000 student veterans, SVA aims to inspire yesterday’s warriors by connecting student veterans with a community of like-minded chapter leaders. Every day these passionate leaders work to provide the necessary resources, network support, and advocacy to ensure student veterans can effectively connect, expand their skills, and ultimately achieve their greatest potential. For more information, visit us at www.studentveterans.org.