New system allows troops, vets to report bad schools

8:04 AM, Jan 31, 2014   |    comments
Veterans Affairs is offering a way to report unscrupulous schools to authorities with the power to stop them. (VA)
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(ArmyTimes.com) - A long-awaited complaint system, launched Jan. 30 by the Veterans Affairs Department in partnership with other federal agencies, offers students using military or veterans' education benefits a way to report unscrupulous schools to authorities with the power to stop them.

The tool, available on both the VA and Defense Department websites, will allow current and former service members, as well as their benefit-eligible dependents, to report colleges and universities for their marketing practices, costs and fees, education quality, grade policies and other issues.

The system was developed after well-publicized complaints about some institutions - particularly for-profits - misleading or otherwise cheating such students out of their education benefits, while offering little in return.

The system could give officials a way to distinguish good schools from bad - and the bad ones ultimately could end up with law enforcement at their doors.

"When feedback is received, agencies will contact the school on behalf of the student and work toward a resolution," VA officials said in a news release. "Complaints and their resolution will be forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network, accessible by over 650 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for use in enhancing and coordinating law enforcement investigations."

In addition to VA and DoD, the departments of Education and Justice, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission, collaborated on the project.

Ryan Gallucci, deputy legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the new tool a "game changer."

Previously, vets who had problems at their schools "really didn't have anywhere to turn," he said. "I think we're finally going to have quality, verifiable, actionable information."

Michael Dakduk, former leader of Student Veterans of America who recently left that role for a position with the trade group representing for-profit schools, expressed strong support, saying the system would allow policy makers to base decisions on hard facts, rather than "anecdotes" and "extreme stories."

"Let's identify issues and resolve them, if in fact there are any issues," said Dakduk, vice president of military and veterans affairs for the Associatiion of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.

The complaint tool can be found atwww.benefits.va.gov/gibill/feedback.asp.

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