December 13, 2012

Veterans Affairs Department Agrees to GI Bill Housing Allowance Fix for OIT Students

Wyden, Merkley, Walden and Schrader Raised Concerns that Current Regulations Short Change Veterans Living Near College Satellite Campuses

Washington, D.C. – In a good first step toward fairer housing allowances for veterans going to school on the post-9/11 GI bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs is allowing veterans studying at the Oregon Institute of Technology’s Wilsonville satellite campus to receive a housing allowance more in line with their cost of living. The move could open the door for GI Bill students at colleges and universities in Oregon and nationwide to be given housing allowances that accurately represent rental costs near the satellite campuses they attend as opposed to their school’s main campus as is done today. U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) sent a letter to the VA urging them to make changes to this policy last week.

“The VA’s metric for deciding how much veterans going to school on the GI Bill receive in their monthly housing allowance does not take into account the higher cost of housing at some satellite campuses,” Wyden said. “This means many veterans are being shortchanged for choosing to study in more expensive urban areas. While it seems the VA is fixing this on a case by case basis at the moment, I will continue to work with my colleagues and the VA to push for a more systemic fix to the problem.  It is good to see the VA willing to take a look at ways to make their housing allowance fairer for veterans taking advantage of the GI bill.”

“Our veterans have stood up for us overseas, and this example of bureaucratic short-sightedness shows why we need to stand up for them when they get home,” said Merkley. “I’m pleased that the VA has made the necessary changes to ensure that veterans who attend the Wilsonville OIT campus are getting the correct level of resources and not having to pay extra for their housing just because they attend OIT’s satellite campus.”
“This is great news that the VA has so quickly agreed that veterans housing stipends should be based on where the veterans actually attend school, not where the school is headquartered. Veterans attending Oregon Tech will finally get the benefits they deserve when this needless red tape is cut away,” Rep. Walden said.
"I applaud the VA's recognition of the unique circumstance that the Oregon Institute of Technology finds itself in at the Wilsonville satellite campus in Clackamas County," Schrader said. "I really appreciate the efforts of everyone to find a resolution for our veterans that deserve our unwavering support and will now receive the full benefits they are due."

Under current VA regulations, the housing allowance for veterans going to school on the post-9/11 GI bill is tied to the housing costs in the geographic area the college’s administrative offices are located. In the case of OIT, the rental prices near their main campus in Klamath Falls are significantly lower than that of their satellite campus outside of Portland. OIT has announced that the VA has created an exception granting OIT’s Wilsonville campus a facility code that allows for students studying there to receive housing allowances in line with rental costs near that campus. This decision gives other universities the ability to petition the VA for facility codes for their satellite offices as well. The Oregon members who signed on to last week’s letter urged the VA to make more systemic changes that would make the program fairer for veterans nationwide. 

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