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McCain Has To Stand With Veterans, Not For-Profit Colleges
Last year, the Department of Defense took a bold move against the University of Phoenix, placing the nation’s largest for-profit college on probation and putting tuition assistance for active-duty students at the school at risk. This gave the rest of the for-profit education industry notice that the DoD was not going to stand idly and let those institutions exploit veterans.
But Phoenix’s DoD probation only lasted three months. As a big company, it’s a special interest all its own, and has high-powered politicians like senators John McCain and Lamar Alexander in its corner. McCain, publicly praised DoD’s retreat, has been a particularly staunch defender of the for-profit education industry, defending even the notorious ITT Tech in the wake of its loss of federal education dollars. Perhaps his stalwart defense of these companies has something to do with the fact that he is Congress’ leading recipient of for-profit-college campaign contributions.
The coziness of McCain and others with for-profit college operators matters, because so many of these schools exist primarily on the backs of veterans, and the outcomes for veterans at these schools are generally poor. If the DoD couldn’t hold a single bad actor accountable before the latest election, it is even less likely to after.
The VA, supposedly the veterans’ advocate in the U.S. government, didn’t even do as much as the DoD. To this point, its only significant action to protect veterans has been to put flags on some suspect colleges in its online GI Bill Comparison Tool.
That post-9/11 GI Bill is perhaps the biggest improvement in veterans’ benefits since the end of World War II. Its benefits — 36 months of college tuition, plus a housing allowance — provide truly life-changing money to help vets get college educations. This is where the miracle of the free market was supposed to create a win-win; where educational entrepreneurs created flexible programs that give vets (usually “non-traditional students” with families and jobs) valuable job skills while earning a fair profit as reward.
Unfortunately, the post-9/11 GI Bill golden egg was just too big of a payday for shady operators to ignore. Because of the way federal financial aid requirements are structured, getting GI Bill students to attend a particular school allows it to evade a rule that a school has to get at least 10% of its revenue from private funds to be eligible for other federal aid. The GI Bill counts as private funds for this purpose. Many for-profits have a hard time reaching that 10% threshold on their own, encouraging them to aggressively, and often unethically, market themselves to vets.
For-profit schools have pulled out all the stops to enroll military students, using questionable marketing techniques and lying about things like graduation rates and job placement. Some even recruited vets known to have traumatic brain injuries from wounded warrior units and military hospitals without making any necessary accommodations for those students. One such student described in a Senate report on the issue “knows he’s enrolled … he just can’t remember what course he’s taking.”
These schools, which commonly cost far more than community and state colleges, use up veterans’ benefits, while the vets themselves often do not graduate, find themselves in debt, or are left with worthless degrees.
While McCain is the biggest recipient of for-profit school campaign contributions, he’s not the only one beholden to dollars over veterans. The list of top recipients of for-profit school campaign money this past year reads like a bipartisan political who’s who of prominent senators and congressmen. One could say that Congress has been asleep at the switch when it comes to protecting veterans from for-profit colleges, but that would ignore the fact that too many of them are actually active proponents of these schools.
It’s up to veterans, veterans service organizations, and their allies to insist Congress and the VA take steps to ensure the benefit money it spends is actually benefiting veterans, not just profit margins. McCain is right on a lot of veterans and military issues, but not on this one.
The biggest step that Congress could take is to include the GI Bill as federal student aid money when the “90/10” rule is applied. Counting the GI Bill the same as normal student aid would put veterans in the same financial category as most other students, not just marks for for-profit school con men. Not surprisingly, the for-profit education lobby and its advocates in Congress strongly oppose any changes to the current 90/10 rule whenever they’re proposed.
McCain and his Senate and House colleagues on both sides of the aisle have a decision to make: whether they are on the side of veterans or educational con men.
The Air Force's top general says one of the designers of the ride-sharing app Uber is helping the branch build a new data-sharing network that the Air Force hopes will help service branches work together to detect and destroy targets.
The network, which the Air Force is calling the advanced battle management system (ABMS), would function a bit like the artificial intelligence construct Cortana from Halo, who identifies enemy ships and the nearest assets to destroy them at machine speed, so all the fleshy humans need to do is give a nod of approval before resuming their pipe-smoking.
An F-15 is rocking a WWII paint job to honor a B-17 pilot who gave his life to save a wounded crewman
An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly battle.
A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.
Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.
Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.
After 70 years, service members are finally filing medical malpractice claims against the US military
Jessica Purcell, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was pregnant with her first child when she noticed a swollen lymph node in her left underarm.
Health-care providers at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic told her it was likely an infection or something related to pregnancy hormones. The following year they determined the issue had resolved itself.
It hadn't. A doctor off base found a large mass in her underarm and gave her a shocking diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer.
Purcell was pregnant again. Her daughter had just turned 1. She was 35. And she had no right to sue for malpractice.
A 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres doctrine prohibits military members like Purcell from filing a lawsuit against the federal government for any injuries suffered while on active duty. That includes injury in combat, but also rape and medical malpractice, such as missing a cancer diagnosis.
Thanks in part to Tampa lawyer Natalie Khawam, a provision in this year's national defense budget allows those in active duty to file medical malpractice claims against the government for the first time since the Feres case.
With the Department of Defense overseeing the new claims process, the question now is how fairly and timely complaints will be judged. And whether, in the long run, this new move will help growing efforts to overturn the ruling and allow active duty members to sue like everyone else.