Legislation Would Provide Counseling on G.I. Bill Benefits to All Eligible Vets

Amid allegations that some for-profit institutions have employed aggressive tactics to recruit veterans for their education benefits, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday that would require education counseling services for every veteran eligible for education assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

In addition to providing comprehensive educational counseling to all veterans eligible for educational benefits, the GI Educational Freedom Act of 2012 would establish a tracking system at the VA for veterans to report instances of waste, fraud and abuse at their schools to ensure veterans are receiving quality education.  

“Arming our veterans with key information about their educational benefits and options empowers them to make an informed decision about which school best meets their needs,” Harkin said.  “And by creating a student complaint system, this pro-consumer legislation also takes an important step at safeguarding both veterans and taxpayers from fraud, waste, and abuse.  These are common-sense, basic measures for protecting the integrity of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.”

Harkin’s Senate HELP Committee has been investigating allegations of deceptive marketing and recruitment practices at for-profit institutions. The for-profit industry has collected about $1.6 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill funds from eligible veterans since 2009. 

Many veterans may not be aware of counseling services offered by the VA designed to help them navigate the educational process, according to a statement from Harkin’s office.  Last year, less than 6,500 beneficiaries of VA educational assistance requested the counseling services. As many as 2.3 million veterans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Iran and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Sen. Harkin sponsored the bill, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-NJ, Marco Rubio, R-FL, Scott Brown, R-MA, Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, and Jeff Merkley, D-OR.