GI Bill Direct Deposits Must Be to Same Bank Account as Other VA Benefits by April 20

Airman reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)
A public affairs specialist airman reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)

Student veterans who have their GI Bill benefits directly deposited into a different bank account than their other veterans' benefits will have to choose one account to receive all payments by April 20.

The change is being made as part of the Department of Veterans Affairs' overall efforts to update the GI Bill payment system and is intended to curb fraud, a top VA official told reporters Wednesday.

"Veterans have earned these benefits through their service to the nation, and ensuring they're safeguarded from those with malicious intent is a significant feature of this single account initiative," Joshua Jacobs, the VA's under secretary for benefits, said in a conference call.

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About 50,000 of the more than 800,000 veterans who use GI Bill benefits are expected to be affected by the change, Jacobs said, stressing that only GI Bill beneficiaries with multiple bank accounts on file with the VA will need to update their direct deposit information.

For example, if a veteran gets their education benefits directly deposited into one bank account and disability benefits into a different bank account, they will now have to choose one account for both benefits.

The department will be reaching out directly to those affected with text messages, phone calls and emails, with plans to send weekly reminders until the April 20 deadline. Weekly reminders will also continue after the deadline if an affected veteran hasn't updated their bank information by then.

Affected veterans who don't choose a single bank account by April 20 will still receive their GI Bill benefits, Jacobs stressed. In those cases, the department will automatically start depositing the education payments into the bank account the veteran uses for their other benefits, he explained.

"But having said that, we are aggressively working to communicate to all of the 50,000 GI Bill beneficiaries so that they have the opportunity to make that decision for themselves," Jacobs added.

In addition to the department's own outreach, the VA is also working with universities, veterans service organizations and other groups to ensure the message gets out, he said.

Most other VA benefits already need to be deposited into the same bank account, with the GI Bill benefits the only outlier.

Consolidating all benefits into a single bank account helps combat fraud by making it easier for the department to investigate if fraud does happen, Jacobs said.

"We are replacing a 50-year-old-plus benefits payment system for GI Bill with a new, modernized payment system," he added. "And that will not only increase reliability, but it'll also enhance our remediation time to make fraud victims whole and ultimately reduce the overall risk of fraud through the reduction of potential means of entry for criminals."

Veterans who need to update their direct deposit information can do so by visiting the VA's website.

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