NAICU Washington Update

Update On Servicemember And Veteran Education

April 11, 2014

The Obama administration continues to make steady progress in implementing the initiatives outlined in the April 2012 executive order establishing “Principles of Excellence” for institutions enrolling service members and veterans.

The principles focused on a number of issues in the following areas: program integrity, consumer information, and complaint resolution issues.

Program Integrity: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sought trademark protection for the term “GI Bill,” which was registered as a trademark owned by the VA in October 2012. In a March 10 Federal Register notice, the VA outlined the terms of use for the trademark. The publication discusses the placement of the trademark symbol and outlines five criteria for third-party use of the term.

In addition, a revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) governing the Defense Department’s Tuition Assistance (TA) program is expected to be issued next month. The revisions are expected to incorporate provisions of the “Principles of Excellence” related to the return of TA funds after withdrawal, misrepresentation, incentive compensation, state authorization, readmission, and the provision of consumer information.

Consumer Information: The VA has now posted on its website a GI Bill comparison tool that provides information about all VA-approved education and training program providers. The site includes institution-specific information about the amount of assistance for tuition and fees, housing, and books a veteran could expect to receive—based on the length of active-duty service. It also indicates the number of GI Bill recipients attending the institution and notes whether or not the institution has agreed to the “Principles of Excellence” or participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. Graduation rate, default rate, and median borrowing information compiled by the Department of Education also is provided—along with a link to the institution’s College Navigator page.

Complaint Resolution: In late January, several federal agencies announced the establishment of an online system for use by service members, veterans, and their families for registering complaints against educational institutions that receive education program funding from the VA or the Defense Department. Participating agencies include the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education, and Justice; the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and the Federal Trade Commission.

Complaints may be registered on either the Department of Defense or GI Bill websites. The Education Department also will accept complaints via e-mail at: Federal officials who receive the complaint will first contact the school in an effort to address it. Information about the complaints and their resolution will then be provided to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network. This network is accessible to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

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