The VA May Blow $2.3 Billion In GI Bill Funds On Schools That Don't Deserve It, IG Says

Veterans Benefits

Editor’s Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.


The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued the latest in a series of five audits charging that the Department of Veterans Affairs' oversight failures could potentially lead to $2.3 billion in GI Bill money going to ineligible for-profit schools over the next five years.

The latest OIG report released Monday focused on poor monitoring of state officials — called State Approving Agencies, or SAAs — by the Veterans Benefits Administration "to ensure only eligible programs participated" in post-9/11 GI Bill student education and training.

The report found that an astounding "86 percent of SAAs did not adequately oversee the education and training programs" to make sure the schools had proper accreditation. The VBA's failure to monitor the SAAs contributed to the problem, it added.

"The OIG estimated that, without correction, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) could issue an estimated $2.3 billion in improper payments to ineligible programs over the next five years," the report stated.

"Because VBA and the SAAs lacked effective controls to ensure the proper review, approval, and monitoring of programs," the report noted, "VBA could not provide reasonable assurance" that the money was going where it should and students were receiving quality education.

In fiscal 2017, VBA paid schools about $5.06 billion for nearly 750,000 post-9/11 GI Bill students, according to the report. Poor oversight contributed to GI Bill students attending "4,400 programs where VBA lacked sufficient support for program eligibility, and for which VBA issued an estimated $585 million in related improper payments."

In its response to the findings, the VA disagreed with its OIG on who was responsible for the oversight. "VBA maintained it has a limited role for oversight of SAAs," the report said, but the OIG's office said the VBA had sufficient authority under the U.S. Code and directives from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Carrie Wofford, president of the non-profit Veterans Education Success, called the report "serious and damning."

"[But] we are ... heartened the inspector general agreed with us that VA has a statutory obligation, apart from the state approving agencies, to cut off colleges that deceive veterans," she said.

The latest OIG report came amid an ongoing scandal over the department's failure to put in IT systems in time to handle changes in the housing allowances under the GI Bill, a misstep that resulted in a backlog of thousands of claims.

The VA last next week pledged to reimburse veterans who were underpaid and have a new system in place by December next year.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee was set to hold a hearing on the housing allowance problems this week, but the event was postponed in deference to the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, who died in Houston last week at age 94.

Other federal agencies have investigated the for-profit schools' efforts to attract post-9/11 student veterans and their GI Bill tuition money.

Last month, 28 veterans organizations called on the Federal Trade Commissionto release the names of the for-profits that participated in an $11 million scam to buy "leads" on potential veterans from shady companies that set up websites not affiliated with the military, such as army.com, to track those interested in the military.

A Rand Corp. study released last week, however, offered a different take on for-profit schools, at least regarding the Defense Department's military spouse scholarship program, Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA). Service members whose spouses use MyCAA are more likely to stay in the military, and the scholarship users are more likely to be employed, the Rand study found. It also noted found that spouses who used for-profit institutions were more likely to be employed than those who did not.

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More articles from Military.com:

WATCH NEXT:

(U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland)

GREENBELT, Md. (Reuters) - A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of amassing a cache of weapons and plotting to attack Democratic politicians and journalists was ordered held for two weeks on Thursday while federal prosecutors consider charging him with more crimes.

Read More Show Less
An undated image of Hoda Muthana provided by her attorney, Hassan Shibly. (Associated Press)

Attorneys for the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump asking the court to recognize the citizenship of an Alabama woman who left the U.S. to join ISIS and allow she and her young son to return to the United States.

Read More Show Less
U.S. soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018. (U.S. Army/Zoe Garbarino/Handout via Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will leave "a small peacekeeping group" of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.

Read More Show Less
Construction crews staged material needed for the Santa Teresa Border Wall Replacement project near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol/Mani Albrecht)

With a legal fight challenge mounting from state governments over the Trump administration's use of a national emergency to construct at the U.S.-Mexico border, the president has kicked his push for the barrier into high gear.

On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted a time-lapse video of wall construction in New Mexico; the next day, he proclaimed that "THE WALL IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW"

But there's a big problem: The footage, which was filmed more than five months ago on Sep. 18, 2018, isn't really new wall construction at all, and certainly not part of the ongoing construction of "the wall" that Trump has been haggling with Congress over.

Read More Show Less
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton

A group comprised of former U.S. military veterans and security contractors who were detained in Haiti on weapons charges has been brought back to the United States and arrested upon landing, The Miami-Herald reported.

The men — five Americans, two Serbs, and one Haitian — were stopped at a Port-au-Prince police checkpoint on Sunday while riding in two vehicles without license plates, according to police. When questioned, the heavily-armed men allegedly told police they were on a "government mission" before being taken into custody.

Read More Show Less