Education benefits for our Post-9/11 community are constantly evolving. Last Thursday, a host of government departments and agencies -- including the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education, and Justice, in coordination with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission -- came together to release an online feedback tool designed to give student-veterans and family members the ability to report negative experiences with educational institutions.
This is a big win for the veterans community, and something that groups like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have advocated to see materialize for years.
You now have the power to help yourselves, your fellow student veterans and future student veterans by reporting your negative experiences here.
The system is a major step forward in arming the government to address the predatory practices of some colleges and universities. The complaints entered will allow the VA and other government agencies to identify malicious practices, trigger investigations, and allow agencies to lock in on bad actors in education and advocate for our community. Not only is this an important step for our government, it's an important step for our veterans and service members as well -- putting the power in the hands of individuals who benefit from the education itself.
The new tool is the result of a major push from the entire veterans community. Predatory for-profit schools have been targeting veterans' benefits through aggressive and deceptive marketing campaigns since the Post-9/11 GI Bill was passed. In the past, it's been hard to identify the good actors from the bad without some sort of system to capture complaints. These schools have been diligent in getting veterans enrolled and padding the pockets of investors with the veteran's dime while providing a sub-par level of education and extremely high dropout rates.
IAVA with the help of fellow Veteran Service Organizations pushed for urgent action from the get-go. In response, President Obama issued Executive Order 13607. The Order addresses reports of unfair, deceptive or misleading behavior toward veterans, service members, and their families pursuing higher education. It also directs agencies to establish, implement, and promote compliance with "Principles of Excellence" for educational institutions receiving funding from Federal, military, and veterans educational benefits programs. The Order was signed in 2012, and the new complaint system is the next step in enforcing these Principles of Excellence.
The New GI Bill has been a real game changer, sending more than a million veterans and their families to school. Because of the New GI Bill, service members are benefiting from the largest investment in veterans education since the Second World War. Like the original GI Bill, this new bill fulfills a promise to our veterans: Those who defend our country should be able to take advantage of America's opportunity.
In the past however, choosing an institution and figuring out how to utilize these benefits has not been a data driven process for many vets. There has been a lack of usable consumer information from institutions, and many who have preyed on our service members and veterans.
As a leader in working to pass and protect the New GI Bill, IAVA welcomes this new tool as the next step in making school choices more transparent and ultimately, improving the benefit and the education for all veterans and their families.
Ryan Weemer is a USMC Iraq war veteran and the Education Program Associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).