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Will VA Scrap Ethics Law That Safeguards Veteran Students?

va seal

Debbie Gregory.

Statute 38 U.S.C. 3683 is an ethics law that prohibits Department of Veterans Affairs employees from receiving money or owning a stake in for-profit colleges.

But the VA is now pushing back, claiming that the 50-year-old statute is redundant due to the other conflict-of-interest laws that apply to all federal employees and provide sufficient safeguards.

You may be wondering why this is important.

Veteran advocacy groups believe that doing away with the law would make it easier for the for-profit education industry to exploit veterans with their rich GI Bill benefits.

There is mounting concern that suspending the statute would make it possible for high-ranking agency officials to enact policies that benefit for-profit schools in which they have a financial interest.

“The statute is one of many important bipartisan reforms Congress implemented to protect G.I. Bill benefits from waste, fraud, and abuse,” said William Hubbard of Student Veterans of America. “A thoughtful and robust public conservation should be had to ensure that the interests of student veterans is the top of the priority list.”

“Congress enacted a zero tolerance for financial conflicts of interest for VA employees precisely because Congress uncovered massive fraud by for-profit colleges targeting veterans.”

“Student veterans were already facing an aggressive rollback of their protections under the Trump administration’s Education Department,” said Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success.  The non-profit group works to protect and defend the integrity and promise of the GI Bill and other federal education programs for veterans and servicemembers.

The law already provide measures for any employee that it covers to receive a waiver if they can prove that there is no conflict of interest and that whatever arrangement they have or had will not be a detriment to veterans.

The VA proposal is set to go into effect on October 16 unless the agency “receives a significant adverse comment” by or on that date.

Unfortunately, to date, no such comments have yet been submitted nor have any public hearings been scheduled.

What do you think?

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Trump Administration Wants to Legalize Payoffs to VA Officials by For-Profit Schools

for profit rip off

By Debbie Gregory.

Before taking office last year, Donald Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle multiple lawsuits claiming fraud at Trump University, his for-profit real estate school.

Last month, the Trump administration announced that Julian Schmoke Jr., a former official at for-profit DeVry University, would be in charge of a Department of Education unit that polices colleges for student aid fraud. Last year, DeVry paid $100 million to settle federal claims it misled students, including veteran education programs.

And now, the Trump administration is seeking to waive an anti-corruption law that has been on the books for 50 years. The law prevents officials who administer the GI Bill from accepting money from for-profit schools backed by taxpayer subsidies.

The waiver would allow employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs to receive “wages, salary, dividends, profits, gratuities” and services from for-profit schools that receive GI Bill funds.

Veterans’ advocates, who have battled for veteran education rights against predatory colleges, were blindsided.

“Bizarre and very likely illegal,” said Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success.  The non-profit group works to protect and defend the integrity and promise of the GI Bill and other federal education programs for veterans and servicemembers.

“There are federal laws – including federal criminal laws – that prohibit federal employees from engaging in this exact behavior,” she said.

The rule change could create conflict of interest where VA officials, who are charged with ensuring GI Bill funds are well spent, could accept payments from colleges facing scrutiny.

VA employees could also own or run a for-profit college that profits from the GI Bill.

The VA angered many veteran advocates by allowing for-profit Ashford University to continue receiving GI Bill money, this in spite of the fact that California and Iowa regulators revoked its certification from the program.

Ashford circumvented the revocation by moving its official address from Iowa to Arizona.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.