Veterans, service members, and their families now have an online venue to file complaints about educational institutions that are receiving funding through benefits programs provided by the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Defense Department’s Military Tuition Assistance Program.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education and Justice departments, along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission on January 30, 2014, announced the rollout of a new online complaint system for veterans, service members and eligible dependents to report negative experiences with educational institutions.
The online platform is expected to provide federal agencies with better oversight of potential unfair, deceptive and misleading practices, and ensure high quality academic and student support for veterans, service members and their families.
Plans for the centralized online reporting system – made possible through an executive order signed by President Obama – were announced by the president and First Lady Michelle Obama during an address at Ft. Stewart, GA, on April 27, 2012.
“We’re going to bring an end to the aggressive – and sometimes dishonest – recruiting that takes place,” Obama said. “We’re going to up our oversight of improper recruitment practices. We’re going to strengthen the rules about who can come on post and talk to service members. And we’re going to make it a lot easier for all of you to file complaints and for us to take action when somebody is not acting right.”
Obama pointed to an example of a college recruiter who visited Camp Lejeune to enroll a group of Marines, many of whom had injuries so severe that some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for. “That’s appalling. That’s disgraceful,” Obama said. “It should never happen in America.”
Current and former students who believe their school is enforcing unfair recruiting practices or making broken promises on credit transfers, degree requirements and/or financial aid can file a complaint through the centralized online reporting system accessed via the Defense Department and GI Bill websites.
Once feedback is received, agencies will contact the school on behalf of the student and work toward a resolution. Complaints and their resolution will then be forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network for use in enhancing and coordinating potential law enforcement investigations.
The new complaint system is just one of a range of tools being implemented by the federal government to ensure that service members, veterans and their families have access to accurate and meaningful information about the cost and quality of educational institutions, the VA said.
“The online complaint system empowers veterans and their dependents and provides them a direct line to VA and our partner agencies,” said Allison A. Hickey, undersecretary for benefits at the VA, in a statement. “The feedback we receive from veterans, service members and their families will help us strengthen enforcement of the ‘Principles of Excellence’ for institutions of higher learning serving veterans and their families to ensure students are receiving the education benefits they have earned and deserve.”
Check out the new GI Bill online complaint system
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Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.