The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee today approved important provisions by Senator Jim Webb, author of the landmark Post-9/11 GI Bill, to protect veterans' education benefits from abuses by certain schools. In March 2012, Senator Webb introduced the Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act to require schools participating in VA and DOD educational programs to meet the same educational standards currently required for Pell Grants, federal student loans and other federal education programs. It also included requirements for participating educational institutions to disclose graduation rates, default rates, and other critical information to potential students. These provisions were incorporated into the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012 (S. 2241), which was approved by the committee by voice vote.
"Some for-profit educational institutions are providing our students a good education, but abuses by certain institutions could put the integrity of the Post-9/11 GI Bill program at risk," said Senator Webb, who introduced the Post-9/11 GI Bill on his first day in office. "I am pleased the Veterans' Affairs Committee has approved our proposals to ensure a minimum standard of quality. With the significant federal dollars being spent, we owe it to taxpayers and our veterans to carefully monitor and provide adequate oversight, so that we have standardization among the institutions that are receiving federal monies to educate our veterans. I look forward to continuing to work to enact these provisions into law.
"The Post-9/11 GI Bill started with a simple concept: that we owe those people who have served since 9/11 the same type of quality educational benefits that those who served in World War II received," said Senator Webb, who served as a combat Marine in Vietnam and later as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. "I'm very proud to say that we were able to do that. It continues to be a great investment in the future of our country through the people who have served."
The Committee today approved the following provisions by Senator Webb:
Require that all programs receiving funding from the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Tuition Assistance be Title IV eligible, which is already a requirement for schools receiving Pell Grants and other types of federal funding. Title IV eligibility requirements include accreditation by a Department of Education-approved accrediting agency, an undergraduate withdrawal rate for all students of no more than 33% for new schools, and mandated reviews by the Department of Education if a school has high dropout or default rates, which could lead to sanctions or other penalties.
Expand the responsibilities of the State Approving Agencies by requiring them to conduct audits of schools, including unannounced audits and audits using risk-based approaches, and to report those findings to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop a centralized complaints process to report instances of fraud, waste, and abuse by educational institutions.
Increase the transparency of participating educational institutions by requiring them to disclose graduation rates, default rates, and other critical information to potential students to ensure that they can choose the best academic program for their needs.
Require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct compliance reviews of educational institutions in response to a triggering event, such as a rapid increase in the student dropout rate.
Senator Webb's Military and Veterans Educational Reform Act of 2012 has received the support and endorsement of more than a dozen veteran service organizations including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, AMVETs, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, and Military Officers Association of America.
Signed into law on June 30, 2008, Senator Webb's Post-9/11 GI Bill offers returning service members up to 36 months of benefits including payment of tuition, fees and educational costs, plus a monthly housing allowance while enrolled in full-time training. Since May 2009, more than 1.3 million individuals have applied for this benefit and the VA has paid $18 billion for nearly 769,000 beneficiaries of the program.