Howard University Boosts Resources for Student Vets After Botched Handling of GI Bill Benefits

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Howard University campus
With the Founders Library in the background, people walk through the Howard University campus, Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Howard University has boosted resources for student veterans on campus with a massive federal grant that will assist them with key education benefits after the school's troubled history handling military scholarships such as the GI Bill.

The prestigious historically Black college in Washington, D.C., opened a new office Nov. 9 that acts as a liaison between the school and the Department of Veterans Affairs after receiving $580,000 in funding from the Department of Education, according to a press release from the school.

Such offices are commonplace among major U.S. universities, but Howard's resources for veterans and their families have in the past been minimal and almost caused pursuing an education at the school to become a nonstarter for GI Bill beneficiaries.

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The move comes two years after a Military.com investigation found the school grossly mishandled benefits of GI Bill beneficiaries, mostly through a series of administrative blunders.

The VA has eligibility requirements for schools to be able to accept GI Bill money from students, and those bureaucratic burdens often require staff at schools dedicated to those beneficiaries.

Administration snafus in 2021 left many of the 200 Howard students who relied on the benefits unable to pay their tuition, with some of those students telling Military.com they were being forced to leave the school.

The situation got so severe, the District of Columbia's State Approving Agency, or SAA, revoked Howard University's ability to allow newly enrolled student veterans to use their GI Bill benefits. But that eligibility was eventually restored.

A spokesperson for the university did not return Military.com's request for an interview ahead of publication.

SAAs are the enforcement arm of VA education benefits, and generally go after bogus schools and other scams, such as a church many described as a cult that was raided by the FBI after years of bilking veterans out of benefits. The GI Bill is broadly considered one of the federal government's most successful programs and is among the most cherished military benefits.

The agency threatening a well-established school such as Howard's GI Bill eligibility isn't unheard of, but was widely seen by advocates and staff within the agency as a rare move. GI Bill students are worth about $6.3 million a year to the school.

After Military.com's reporting on the matter, a Howard University administrator overseeing veteran benefits at the school left his position. The university started offering student veterans a $3,000 no-interest loan, though some students interviewed at the time reported not seeing that offer.

In November 2021, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, lost GI Bill eligibility for one of its programs, impacting 20 students at the time, another relatively rare example of VA officials cracking down on legitimate schools over administrative shortcomings.

Editor's note: This story was updated to accurately reflect how an administrator overseeing veteran benefits ended his employment with Howard University.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Errors Cost Student Vets GI Bill Benefits. Now, Howard University Is Scrambling to Save VA Funding

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