Lawmakers want DOD to provide data on troops’ tuition assistance complaints
(Sarah Cherry/U.S. Marine Corps)

Lawmakers want DOD to provide data on troops’ tuition assistance complaints

Four members of Congress have asked the Pentagon to bring them up to date on the Postsecondary Education Complaint System — reports the Defense Department stopped providing nearly a decade ago.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tom Caper, D-Del., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., with Rep. Donald Davis, D-N.C., wrote Wednesday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asking the Pentagon to start publishing updates from the complaint system again.

“This will afford Congress and the public the ability to conduct oversight and ensure accountability over these programs, which receive hundreds of millions of dollars in DoD funding annually,” said the letter, which was also addressed to the acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness, Ashish Vazirani.

The system was launched in January 2014 when the DOD collaborated with the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs to provide “military students the opportunity to file education complaints against their schools,” the letter states.

It was spurred on by Government Accountability Office probe in March 2011 that revealed the Pentagon was aware of concerns regarding “improper recruiting practices,” according to the letter.

But “without a centralized process to track complaints against schools and their resolution,” the DOD lacked the ability to discern trends requiring oversight and whether those concerns were adequately addressed.

In fiscal 2014, the DOD received hundreds of complaints from students receiving assistance from My Career Advancement Account Scholarships and the Tuition Assistance Program, according to the letter. Most complaints focused on tuition and fees, refund or collections issues, quality of education and release of transcripts.

Data from the following year “was similarly helpful in identifying and addressing institutions and behavior that put taxpayer dollars at risk,” according to the lawmakers.

After fiscal 2015, when the DOD stopped releasing summary reports, information on complaint numbers and “critical information” about problems facing military-connected students was unavailable to Congress, according to the lawmakers.

“We write today to better understand the status of the Postsecondary Education Complaint System, and to urge the Department of Defense to prioritize this program in order to safeguard the hard-earned military education benefits of our service members and their families,” the letter states. The letter also requests the DOD to release basic data from the complaint system on its website along with providing annual summary data again.

The four lawmakers asked for a response by May 15. Up to 300,000 military members participate in tuition assistance programs annually, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service published Dec. 14. The DOD alone provided $644 million in tuition assistance in fiscal year 2022, according to the lawmakers’ letter.

Military spouses benefit from career scholarships and veterans benefit from the Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bills and loan programs from the federal government and commercial lenders.

All are encouraged to send their complaints to the Postsecondary Education Complaint System, according to the program’s website.