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Will I Have to Pay the VA Back Because I Was Injured In Class?

Author Ron Kness is no longer in the service.

Q: My question is about my status changing from full-time to half-time due to an injury sustained while participating in one of my classes. First of all, I’m a student majoring in Exercise Science so some of the classes I’m required to take require a significant amount of time outside of the classroom. I was enrolled in 14 credits for the Spring ‘12 semester and one of the courses that I was supposed to take near the end of the semester counted for 4 credits. In an accident that led to a meniscus tear in my right knee I became physically unable to fully participate in that 4-credit course, which involved outdoor recreational sports. Having to withdraw from this course brought me down to 10 credits, so this prompted me to contact my school certifying official and explained that my status change now puts me in debt to the VA. She didn’t elaborate exactly how, so naturally I would think that either the money for the course I withdrew from has to be paid back and/or the % difference of the BAH entitlement has to be paid back. I’ve been receiving treatment for my knee at a local VA hospital, so acquiring documentation to justify my withdrawal wouldn’t be an issue if I needed to do so. Does my student status change back to full-time in the Fall ‘12? I’m currently registered for 13 credits for the Fall ‘12. Will this incident impact being certified for my Fall ‘12 classes? Will I have to pay back 20% of the BAH I received thus far for my last semester? The real question is will I have to pay back anything even if the reason for not completing all of the courses I was registered for was due to injury?

A: First, the VA has a one-time/first-time drop policy where you can drop up to six credits with no questions asked, so you might be able to drop your four credits using that policy. If you don’t want to go that route, then explain the consequences of why you had to drop the four credits (because of an injury). The VA in turn would evaluate your reason and classify it as either due to mitigating or non-mitigating circumstances.

To me your reason would be non-mitigating meaning the reason you had to drop was out of your control (and it was). You didn’t know that you were going to get hurt and once you were, you could not physically finish the course, thus your reason for dropping it.

If the VA agrees that it is non-mitigating, then you most likely will not have to pay anything back or if you do, it would be just the additional amount you were paid between the time you reported it and when they paid you for still taking 14 credits.

However, it could go the other way too – mitigating – and then you might have to pay some money back, but I think your reasoning would stand strong.

If you do have to pay something back, either pay it or set up a payment schedule with the VA Debt Management Center, so that it won’t hold up your Fall semester Post 9/11 GI Bill payments.

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