GI Bill error leaves student in the lurch — with no timeline for a fix

GI Bill error leaves student in the lurch — with no timeline for a fix
College student and military dependent, Maria Fratinardo, deals with a mistake with her educational benefit from the VA. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An error by the Department of Veterans of Affairs left a Chaminade student in the lurch and fearful about how she would pay for her expenses.

Maria Fratinardo, the daughter of a disabled veteran, was shocked when she got an unusual letter from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The letter said her monthly $1,224 educational benefit that normally goes into her Hawaii Credit Union account would be going to someone else’s bank account without her permission.

When her GI Bill payment didn’t come in, she thought her identity had been stolen.

“This became very alarming to me and it’s scary knowing that this information is out,” Fratinardo said.

The money was sent to an unknown account at Navy Federal Credit Union.

A VA spokeswoman told Fratinardo the agency made a mistake with her personal information after she called the VA on a separate matter.

“The agent I spoke to did not close out my file when he ended the call with me,” Fratinardo said. “They basically got the information, my file was up and he was on the phone with someone else and he switched over account information."

The VA issued this statement on the incident:

“This issue was the result of an administrative error that has been fixed. At no time was any veteran’s personal information improperly disclosed in connection with this administrative error. No fraud was involved, and we have been in touch with the veteran directly to explain the situation fully.”
Department of Veterans Affairs

Fratinardo says her case is unrelated to the nationwide education payment delays in October, which the VA blamed on an information technology problem.

However, Fratinardo and her two sisters didn’t get their money right away during that incident and it’s these recurring issues that frustrate her family.

Fratinardo’s father, Tom, served with the Marines and was deployed during Desert Storm.

He calls the ongoing issues with the GI Bill payments “unacceptable” and says his symptoms from post-traumatic stress disorder have gotten worse because of the stress over his daughter.

“My issue was not with the money. My issue is that other veterans' dependents are not being treated in this manner. I don’t understand it,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and others have called for an investigation into missed or underpaid benefits.

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