Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie Statement on the Passing of President George H. W. Bush
“All of America’s veterans are saddened by the passing of President George H. W. Bush. His courage in combat was special even during the war in the Pacific, where our forces demonstrated some of the highest levels of valor and heroism in our history. When holding the highest offices in our country, he never forgot those who wore the uniform. The Department of Veterans Affairs sends its thoughts and prayers to the Bush family in remembrance of this extraordinary American.”
VA announces fully capable Tele-counseling service within its Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program
WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E) announced the ability for Veterans nationwide to meet with more than 1,000 Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VRC) via “Tele-counseling,” or virtual communication.
Tele-counseling, which is accessible on any device with a webcam and microphone, increases VA’s responsiveness to Veterans’ needs, reduces travel costs and time for both Veterans and VRCs, and improves Veterans’ access to necessary VR&E services.
“We strive to provide Veterans with access to personalized, interactive face-to-face care and services regardless of where they live,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VR&E’s Tele-counseling service is another example of how VA continually modernizes in support of Veterans’ needs.”
Tele-counseling allows Veterans to meet with VRCs virtually through VA Video Connect without having to download specialized software or obtain unique usernames and passwords. Access to a scheduled counseling session is obtained through a unique link sent directly to the Veteran and is valid for that counseling session only.
Veterans participating in most VR&E rehabilitation plans of service may use Tele-counseling and are encouraged to speak with their VRCs about it. Participation is voluntary and not required.
VR&E’s updated Tele-counseling application was developed through a partnership with Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) VA Telehealth Services. VR&E recently tested the ability to use Tele-counseling during initial evaluation appointments at six regional benefits offices. This test was conducted to identify how using Tele-counseling can reduce time Veterans wait for an appointment. Best practices were identified and incorporated into the rollout of the updated Tele-counseling application.
Since 2014, over 56,000 Veterans have either completed a rehabilitation plan, are employed, or have achieved a greater independence in living through VR&E assistance. The VR&E Program currently has more than 122,000 participants. For more information about VR&E, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/.
VA Benefits Chief: "Every Single Veteran Will Be Made Whole"
Today, during a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, VA Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence delivered the following statement:
Before I get into my opening statement on the subject of this morning’s hearing, I want to address a misleading NBC news story from late yesterday that gives the false impression that some Veterans on the GI Bill will not be made whole with respect to their housing payments based on an announcement VA made yesterday.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Each and every Veteran on the post-9/11 GI Bill will be made 100 percent whole -- retroactively if need be -- for their housing benefits for this academic year based on the current uncapped DoD rates, and, beginning in spring 2020, we will be in a position to provide Veterans with the new rates where applicable to meet the law known as the Forever GI Bill.
Once again – each and every, and I mean every single Veteran, will be made whole for their housing benefits this year. As we announced yesterday, the rates we are providing are the current academic year uncapped DoD Basic Allowance for Housing rates based on the location of a school’s main campus, rather than the physical location of the student.
For many students, this DoD BAH rate will be equal to or higher than their current payment. If a student was overpaid due to the changes in law or because of VBA’s challenges in implementing the law, the student will not be held liable for the debt.
And, starting in the Spring term of 2020, VA will have solved its current technology difficulties so that the department is in a position to provide post-9/11 GI Bill Veterans the new rates, where applicable, to comply with the Forever GI Bill.
Statement by Secretary Robert Wilkie on Forever GI Bill Housing Benefit Payments
To clear up any confusion, I want to make clear that each and every post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiary will be made 100 percent whole – retroactively if need be – for their housing benefits for this academic year based on Forever GI Bill rates, not on post-9/11 GI Bill rates.
I made this clear to Chairmen Isakson and Roe on calls Tuesday and want to reassure Veterans and taxpayers that is indeed the case.
Although VA has encountered issues with implementing the Forever GI Bill on Congress’ timeline, we will work with lawmakers to ensure that – once VA is in a position to process education claims in accordance with the new law – each and every beneficiary will receive retroactively the exact benefits to which they are entitled under that law.