GI Bill 'complaint center' launches

A Legion-promoted, government-administered program designed to help resolve difficulties that GI Bill students may have with institutions of higher learning has launched today. The program, dubbed the "Complaint Center", will act as a clearing house for grievances lodged by student veterans. The online program is a collaboration between the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education and Justice, along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. 

"The launch of this new online complaint system will now give those responsible for its creation the tools needed to identify and address unfair, deceptive, and misleading practices performed by institutions of higher learning," said Steve Gonzalez, assistant director of the Legion’s Veterans Employment & Education Division. "It also will ensure that high-quality academic and student support services are available for veterans, servicemembers, and their families."

According to Gonzalez, , the Complaint Center will deal with allegations by student veterans of schools’ false and misleading advertising, questionable recruiting practices, "predatory" student loan programs, the issuance of underperforming academic credentials and related issues. Gonzalez says the Center will coordinate information sharing, investigative, and – if needed – prosecution and enforcement activities among the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Justice and Education as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

Students can submit a complaint if they believe their school is failing to follow the Principles of Excellence, (i.e. unfair recruiting practices, credit transfer or change in degree requirements) through the centralized online reporting system accessed via the Department of Defense and GI Bill websites. When feedback is received, agencies will contact the school on behalf of the student and work toward a resolution. 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.

Creation of the new Complaint Center is an outcome of President Obama’s April 2012 Executive Order establishing "Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members." It also reflects passage of H.R. 4057, the "Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012." Both came in the wake of reports of questionable practices by a few schools that seemingly victimized or took financial advantage of servicemembers, veterans and their families.

In August, 2012, Legion leadership adopted Resolution No.303: Support Regulation of For-Profit Schools and State Approving Agencies in response to reports of overly aggressive recruitment of servicemembers and veterans by some underperforming for-profit schools.

Gonzalez says that over the past 18 months, the Complaint Center initiative has been championed primarily by the Legion and the VFW, with both veterans service organizations contributing congressional testimony on issues facing student veterans.