San Diego

Mistake by the VA Costs Navy Veteran Thousands in Benefits

A clerical error caused a U.S. Navy veteran to miss out on more than $1,500 a month in housing payments for a year and a half, he says.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy veteran is owed thousands of dollars in benefits and back pay because of a clerical error made at by an employee with the Veterans Administration (VA).

The typo, which cost Kelvin Lewis $1,500 a month in housing payments, was brought to his attention by a Veterans Affairs counselor after Lewis he graduated from college last year.

Lewis first signed up to serve in the U.S. Navy in 2003, when the U.S. was at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He says the decision was the best he ever made: to service his country, and better his life. 

“I figure why not join the military, get responsibility and then I can get free education,” Lewis said. 

Veterans like Lewis, who joined after September 11, 2001, became eligible for Post 9-11 GI Benefits from the VA.

So when the 33-year-old left the Navy in 2008 after four deployments, including to the Persian Gulf, he qualified to receive money to pay for college and housing while in school. 

Lewis said he enrolled at Southwestern College in August 2009, and he later switched schools to continue his education. 

He says he checked his account at the time, which showed he had no more days of credit under the GI Bill. At the time, he didn't question it.

But after graduating from National University in 2015, he met with a VA counselor who urged him to verify the dates on his account.

Lewis was stunned by what he found.

He said someone at the VA entered the wrong dates when inputting his start date: Aug. 7 instead of Aug. 17. 

“When I contacted the regional office in Oklahoma, they let me know someone there forgot to enter a one in front of the seven for the 17th instead of the 7th,” says Lewis.

But for Lewis, a typo by the Oklahoma VA office turned that benefit into an ordeal. A costly mistake caused Lewis to miss out on more than $1,500 a month in housing payments for a year and a half, he says.

The VA acknowledged the error.

“I mean we are human, people make careless mistakes, but once they are acknowledged and corrected you should act upon them accordingly,” the VA said. 

But the response Lewis got from the VA was only a letter showing he owed $672 because of the date correction; it said nothing about back pay for housing, or BAH as it is called in the military.

“I was shocked," Lewis said. "How do I owe you money when you owe me back-pay.”

Lewis is more than willing to pay back the $672, but the father of two says he is hoping the VA will live up to their part of the contract and send him the more than $27,000 he earned for his education when serving his country.

“That's some money I could definitely use right now,” Lewis said. He has two girls, one of them a newborn. 

NBC 7 San Diego contacted the local VA benefits office, who told us they would look into the situation. They added that they are now fully aware of the issue and plan to reach out to Lewis immediately.

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