02/09/2012 03:13 pm ET Updated Apr 10, 2012

Who Are the Lowest of the Low?

I thought watching and reading about politics and observing the low to which the discourse has fallen was depressing enough, but a recent inquiry into the treatment of returning veterans makes viewing the political arena seem almost uplifting. I was asked recently to aid in a project aimed at assisting veterans who had been defrauded by educational institutions that had taken advantage of government programs to assist veterans and failed to provide either the education or employment promised. But after some research, it appears that the educational scam was only one of many deceptions that deprive veterans and their families of government monies and opportunities designed to assist them after their return from tours of duty. Is there anything lower than those who set out to cheat members of the armed forces who have risked their lives, lost their lives, returned wounded or simply returned with the scars of war? The scams are limitless and despicable.

In addition to many of the for-profit schools which apparently extract benefits and run up debts for returning vets and fail to provide the education or employment offered, other scams abound. Grandparents are preyed upon by being told that money is needed to bail out a soldier/grandchild supposedly arrested in a foreign country. Guaranteed loans are offered to vets with incredibly high interest rates and huge hidden fees. Calls -- supposedly from official VA offices -- are used to obtain private financial information which, in turn, is used to benefit the caller and not the veteran. Mortgage modifications are solicited which require large advance payments and frequently fail to perform any services in exchange.

Returning veterans and their families are vulnerable, and as a result, they are easy prey for the unscrupulous. Clearly not all schools, charities or services to veterans are frauds. Most are not, but far too many are. It is bad enough that some 100,000 or more veterans are homeless every night or care for the wounded is insufficient, but those are the result of neglect, not intentional harm. The education scam has become so profitable that it is now a major investment for respected companies. The New York Times alerts to the danger of "a windfall for fly-by-night schools more interested in cashing in on veterans than educating them." It would be unfair to condemn with too broad a brush, but likewise, investors cannot be excused for closing their eyes to a growing reality of the methods being used coupled with the fact that in one year these institutions received $4.4 billion in veteran benefits. The benefits to the schools (not the veterans) is so great that many spend more on "marketing their programs to veterans than actually educating them."

Those who scam returning vets and their families are the lowest of the low, and those who aid and abet or invest in them -- join their ranks.