With about 12,000 New York City student veterans at risk of eviction from their homes in the coming months, city officials on Monday announced a plan to provide emergency rental assistance.
A pair of city agencies — the Department of Veterans' Services and Department of Social Services — are streamlining the process for those student veterans to get evaluated for financial assistance, said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Normally, they can count on GI Bill payments to fund their monthly housing allowance and provide other benefits, but an IT problem has created a backlog *for payments to be processed* at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after President Donald Trump made changes to the law last year, agency officials said. Thousands of students veterans around the country are potentially affected, NBC News previously reported.
The de Blasio administration said first-year students are being most affected by the technical error.
"Dozens of schools reported to the NYC Department of Veterans' Services that many of their student veterans are between 2-4 months behind on rent and are without funds for living expenses," the mayor's office said in a release.
In a statement provided by his office, de Blasio added, "Our nation owes our veterans a debt of gratitude for their service. At the very least, those who bravely served our country are owed the benefits promised to them by the federal government. New York City is stepping up to give student veterans the security they need to stay in their homes while they wait for the federal benefits they earned through service to our country."
The GI Bill was signed into law in 1944 to help veterans pay for college, graduate school and various training programs. It also provides assistance to family members of those who previously served.
The city's veteran services and social services departments have partnered with 80 academic institutions in New York as part of its "Veterans on Campus-NYC" network.
Eligibility requirements for assistance include proof of GI Bill eligibility, identity, New York City residence, citizenship status and compliance with a background check and finger imaging.
The VA initially had plans to implement new standards for calculating housing stipends on Aug. 1, but because of the "severe critical errors" during testing that "resulted in incorrect payments," they had to postpone it, said VA spokesman Terrence Hayes.
Since then, the federal agency has paid some recipients too much, some not enough and others nothing at all.
It is now financially assisting some students under 2017 rates, although that ignores the 1 percent increase that occurred in 2018. The federal agency says it plans to eventually reimburse students the difference.
The department also cannot say how many student veterans will be affected by a delay in payments until all enrollment documents are processed. Officials expect around 360,000 of them will be eligible for the 2017 rate.
"We apologize for these delays, and want to assure you we are doing everything in our power to reduce the pending workload, address the oldest claims, and continue to test the housing payment IT modifications required for the Colmery Act," the VA wrote on their website on Oct. 25.
CORRECTION (Oct. 29, 2018, 5:35 p.m. ET): An earlier version of the article misidentified the source of a statement about student veterans being behind on their rent. The quote was from a news release issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio's office; it was not said directly by de Blasio.