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Sen. Michael Bennet Asks VA To Stop Late Payments

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Sen. Michael Bennet (credit: CBS)

Sen. Michael Bennet (credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) – The Veterans Affairs Department has been late in paying education benefits to scores of Colorado veterans, Sen. Michael Bennet said Tuesday, and he asked the department to find a remedy.

Bennet, D-Colo., said 141 veterans have told him the VA has been late in paying benefits under a half dozen education programs.

He sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki about the delays.

“We’re only going to have more student vets in the years ahead,” Bennet told The Associated Press. “We don’t want matters to get worse.”

The VA said its employees are working overtime and weekends to process paperwork for veterans seeking education benefits.

“We regret any delays that may have occurred,” the department said in a written release.

A panel of veterans that advises Bennet on veterans matters raised the issue. Bennet’s office then sent questionnaires to veterans at about 20 Colorado colleges and universities in September asking about problems with benefits payments.

More than 260 responded. Of those, 168 said they experienced some sort of problem in getting education benefits, including the 141 who said their payments had been late.

Nearly 120 said their benefits had been at least 30 days late.

“One of the reasons that people join the military often is to pay for school,” Bennet said. “I think we have a sacred promise to veterans to make sure their benefits are paid on time.”

The programs the veterans cited included three versions of the GI Bill and programs for vocational rehabilitation, retraining assistance and help for survivors and dependents.

Separately, some veterans attending colleges in Colorado and elsewhere have reported problems in getting paid for the hours they put in as part of a work-study program.

The VA said in that case that its processing office in St. Louis had been slow in processing paychecks and work-study contracts because off vacant positions and an influx of veterans joining the program.

The department said it hired more workers and had reduced the processing time for paychecks.

The St. Louis office handles work-study time cards and contracts from 19 states, mostly in the Midwest.

- By Dan Elliott, AP Writer

LINK:  Results of Bennet’s Questionnaire

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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