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Congress Introduces Legislation to Help Veterans if Schools Close

Congress and troops

Today, legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to reinstate GI Bill benefits to people attending a school that closes during their enrollment.

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and co-sponsor Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced Senate Bill 2253; and Representatives Mark Takano (D-CA), a member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and co-sponsor Chris Gibson (R-NY) introduced the companion House Bill 3991 in reaction to the closure of several colleges earlier this year.

On April 27, 2015, Corinthian College shut down all 28 of its locations including Heald College, Everest College and WyoTech, leaving hundreds of veterans in the lurch. Veterans were stuck with credits that didn't transfer to other schools, and the VA said that unfortunately there were no provisions in the law that would allow them to restore entitlement that was used attending these schools.

Most veterans who were enrolled when the school closed lost at least four months of GI Bill benefits since the school closed four months into the spring term. The courses they were enrolled in were never completed and they received no academic credit for that semester. Many veterans ended up losing more GI Bill benefits because they found that several of their credits earned in previous semesters at the now-defunct schools would not transfer to other institutions.

Normally, veterans receive 36 months of GI Bill entitlement - the VA considers one month of full-time training a month of GI Bill benefits.

After the closure, the Obama administration said in a statement it wants Congress to act quickly to restore “GI Bill benefits in instances where a school has closed.”

To address this issue Congress has introduced bipartisan legislation to allow VA to reinstate GI Bill benefits in cases such as this, and also allow veterans to receive the GI Bill housing allowance if the school closes in mid-semester. Many veterans rely on the monthly housing allowance to pay their housing costs since they are attending school full-time and don't have the time to hold down a job to pay their living expenses.

Senate Bill 2253, the "Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Education Relief and Restoration Act of 2015" calls on the VA to restore any GI Bill entitlement used on courses that fail to transfer to another institution. It also directs the VA to continue paying the Post-9/11 GI Bill housing allowance until the end of the term during which the school closure occurred.

For-profit schools are increasingly coming under the eyes of Congress and the Whitehouse after allegations of fraud and questionable recruiting practices were reported. About 40% of GI Bill tuition benefits, totaling several billion dollars, have gone to for-profit schools in the past five years. The Whitehouse has issued several Executive Actions aimed at reigning in offending institutions and making more information about schools available to consumers. 

In the last six months alone, several of the larger for-profit institutions have been disciplined by the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and investigations are ongoing. 

This legislation introduced in Congress seeks to protect veterans in the case of any future school shutdowns.

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GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill
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