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The Paralyzed Veterans of America

The Paralyzed Veterans of America

Chairman Stuzman, Ranking Member McNerney, and members of the Subcommittee, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) would like to thank you for the opportunity to submit a statement for the record regarding Executive Order #13607 announced by the President recently.  This executive order is meant to address concerns that have been raised about the actions of certain schools towards veterans who are eligible, and use, Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.  PVA appreciates the fact that you have chosen to further examine the specifics of the executive order to ensure that the veterans are able to take advantage of the best education opportunities available. 

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is pleased to support the Executive Order issued by President Obama in April to protect veterans and military service members from unethical recruiting and marketing practices on the part of certain schools and colleges.  Our support for the executive order is consistent with similar positions addressed in The Independent Budget for FY 2013 co-authored by PVA, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. 

This executive order is, in many respects, consistent with the Military and Veteran Students Educational Bill of Rights agreed to last year by PVA and other veterans and military service organizations.  The goal of the Executive Order is to:

  • Provide students with educational and financial information to make informed decisions.
  • End fraudulent and aggressive recruiting techniques on and off military installations.
  • Ensure support services for service-members and veterans.
  • Develop and collect service member- and veteran-specific student outcome data.
  • Create a centralized complaint system for students receiving military and veterans’ educational benefits.
  • Begin the process to trademark the term “GI Bill.”

A quality education is the essential first step for those who aspire to a life of productive employment and making positive contributions to their communities and society.  Veterans have already served their country honorably and deserve the strongest support in making the transition to civilian life.  It is very troubling that some for-profit schools and colleges with poor track records of serving students have been taking advantage of the assistance provided to military service members and veterans through deceptive sales techniques and promised outcomes that don’t reflect the reality of their performance.  This is particularly disturbing because so much of the income derived by these schools comes from taxpayer dollars in the form of federal student financial assistance and GI Bill and military transition assistance payments.

Indeed, according to 2009 data obtained by Congress from fifteen publicly-traded for-profit education companies, 86 percent of their revenues came from federal taxpayer dollars.  Eight of the ten top school recipients of GI Bill benefits are for-profit higher education companies. Yet, analyses of filings from the Securities Exchange Commission and documents from many of these schools themselves show most of the federal monies are devoted to marketing and profit margins, not education. 

Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs indicate that the average cost per veteran at public non-profit institutions of higher learning is $4874 compared to $10,875 at for-profit schools.  Faced with significantly higher costs, students are compelled to take out loans from these for-profit schools to complete their education.  The U.S. Department of Education reports that these schools account for almost half of all student loan defaults.  Moreover, many students fail to complete their course of study at these schools.  Ten of the highest withdrawal rates for Associate Degree students enrolling in 2008-2009 were found at schools run by for-profit education companies.

Because of anomalies in current law, GI Bill and military transition assistance benefits are particularly valuable to for-profit education companies.  Some of these institutions aggressively solicit veterans with combat stress-related impairments, severe traumatic brain injuries or other physical disabilities.  They do not disclose their graduation or withdrawal rates, post-employment outcomes for graduates or transferability of credits to other educational institutions. Once these veterans are enrolled, the schools fail to provide them with adequate academic support and counseling or other accommodations to enable them to complete their education. 

The executive order addresses many of the most egregious abuses to which veterans and military service members have been subjected and PVA looks forward to examining the plans that the Departments of Education, Defense and Veterans Affairs must put in place to implement its directives.  More can still be done to make sure veterans, members of the military and their families as well as U. S. taxpayers are getting a proper return on their investments in higher education.  However, this is a great step in the right direction.

Once again, PVA would like to thank you for the opportunity to comment on the executive order.  We appreciate the strong focus that the Subcommittee has placed on expanding opportunities for success of veterans in education, the workforce, and the business community.  We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that veterans realize the best outcomes in their education endeavors.  

Information Required by Rule XI 2(g)(4) of the House of Representatives

Pursuant to Rule XI 2(g)(4) of the House of Representatives, the following information is provided regarding federal grants and contracts.

Fiscal Year 2012

No federal grants or contracts received.

Fiscal Year 2011

Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, administered by the Legal Services Corporation — National Veterans Legal Services Program— $262,787.

Fiscal Year 2010

Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, administered by the Legal Services Corporation—National Veterans Legal Services Program— $287,992.