Legislation passed by the House to curb abuses of the GI Bill by for-profit schools will help protect veterans’ education benefits from future budget cuts, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
The legislation puts an end to schools paying bonuses or fees in connection with student recruiting – a practice that too often saw veterans lured into schools that failed to meet their education needs but lined the corporate school’s pockets with GI Bill funds, veterans advocates said.
The Senate is working on a similar act as this legislation has received support by both sides of the aisle meaning it will most likely pass into law, Capitol Hill observers have said.
Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, called the bills “absolutely huge,” and said they will protect the future of the GI Bill by protecting its integrity as a program benefiting veterans.
“The bills go a long way toward keeping the GI Bill intact,” he said. “If a student goes to school that only burns his benefits, that’s not good.”
Veterans attending weak or worthless degree programs, or drawn into schools they’re not able to succeed in, are not helping themselves and are wasting benefit dollars. Unchecked, this is the kind of thing that a future Congress might use as evidence of waste in the GI Bill and push to reduce benefits, he explained.
It is “absolutely critical” that veterans use their benefits for the programs they need, Tarantino said.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., also made the fiscal case for the legislation in a statement sent out by the Committee on Veterans Affairs.
“During a time when every dollar the government spends is highly scrutinized, and as a department whose sole undertaking is providing for our veterans, making sure the money appropriated to VA is efficiently spent on our veterans must remain a priority,” he said.
Rick Castellano, a spokesman for the University of Phoenix, one of the most widely known online schools, said the distance learning university had voiced its support for the House bill in July and was happy to see it pass on Tuesday.
“Our strongly held view is that [it] lays the foundation for a bipartisan solution to further assist student veterans and active duty service members and their families,” Castellano said in a statement.
The University of Phoenix last year had more than 12,000 veterans and active-duty troops enrolled in degree programs.
School officials had previously testified before congressional committees on education and the GI Bill. Castellano said the University of Phoenix worked with veterans’ service organizations to help outline some of the reforms in the House and Senate bills.
Tarantino, a former Army captain who has spent a great deal of time on Capitol Hill working policy issues for IAVA, said the recently passed House bill and the Senate version expected to pass out of committee on Wednesday are positive signs for veterans.
It shows that support for vets in both houses has been strong and bipartisan, he said.
“This is an incredibly politically charged Congress, but it gives me hope for the future when we see people who, though political rivals, put that aside because they feel a sense of patriotism to help the men and women who served,” Tarantino said.