GI Bill After Failing a Class
In cases where you receive the GI Bill and are failing a class, you may wonder if you have to repay the VA for getting a “punitive” grade. Did you know that failing a class is, according to VA.gov, still considered academic progress?
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs official site, “If you finished the class, you won’t have to pay back the GI Bill benefits you used for that class. This is because we count a failing grade (or “punitive grade”) as progress toward graduation requirements even though you don’t get any credit for it.”
The VA adds that you may be able to retake a class you failed using the GI Bill.
GI Bill and Failing a Class Versus Dropping a Class
Failing a class is not the same as dropping or withdrawing from one. Let’s examine the policies of two different schools in this area.
According to the Maryland University official site, “If you are at risk of failing a course and continue to attend through the end of the course, the VA will consider that a completed course and will not require any funds to be returned.”
But for students who withdraw or stop attending before the end of the course when the VA has already processed the payment, “an overpayment will occur,” and you may be required to repay the VA in such cases.
The University of Utah’s official site says something similar. “If you drop or withdraw from a course after we have already submitted your enrollment certification to the VA, you may be required to pay the money back to the VA.”
Finally, the Department of Veterans Affairs itself weighs in on this subject, noting that students who drop or withdraw “may need to pay us back for the cost of any housing or books and supplies that we gave you money for. Your school may need to pay us back for tuition, fees, and Yellow Ribbon benefits paid on your behalf.”
But there is a caveat here. If you explain to the school and VA that the situation that caused the drop or withdrawal is “beyond your control,” the VA may, on a case-by-case basis, “decide that you don’t need to pay us back in full.”
What qualifies for circumstances beyond your control? The following is not an exhaustive list:
- An illness or death in the immediate family
- An injury or illness you had while enrolled
- Unavoidable changes in employment
- A job transfer while were enrolled
- Unplanned call up to active military service
Related: GI Bill Book Stipend
Non-Attendance of Classes Paid for with the GI Bill
You don’t have to formally withdraw or drop a class to incur a debt with the Department of Veterans Affairs over your GI Bill benefits. Non-attendance can lead to an “unofficial withdrawal,” which may result in the VA asking for its money back for that class.
The University of Utah’s policy here is a good summary of what can happen if you fail to maintain regular class attendance:
“It is important to understand that the VA pays you for being in class, not just registering for the course(s). If you register for a class but never attend or stop attending at any point during the semester, you may receive an EU grade which is considered an unofficial withdrawal and a debt will be created against you by the VA.”
If you are failing the class, it’s better to see it through to the end to avoid having to repay the VA.
Retaking a Failed Class Using the GI Bill
As mentioned above, it’s possible to retake a failed class using the GI Bill to pay for it. The University of Utah policy page states, “If you failed a required course or did not receive the minimum grade,” the school considers a passing grade, “the VA will pay for you to repeat the course.”
You may not be allowed to use the GI Bill to retake a class simply to raise your grade if you passed the class, and fees may not be covered for repeated classes.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.