Bipartisan progress for our veterans
After serving our country in uniform, our veterans deserve the opportunity to obtain a world-class education or high quality job-training that will lead to a fulfilling civilian career and a productive life. That’s why, for years, I’ve worked to protect our military and veteran students and safeguard their hard-earned GI Bill benefits. It’s not just the right thing to do. I know first-hand how transformative these benefits can be.
When I returned from Southeast Asia after three tours of duty, I used my Vietnam-Era GI Bill benefits to enroll at the University of Delaware and pursue a master’s degree. Two years later, I emerged with my MBA and a job at the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO). The combination of my military service and education – paid for by the GI Bill – changed my life. I am deeply grateful to the people of this country for investing in me, and my desire to make sure that all our servicemembers receive a quality education that allows them to pursue their dreams is personal to me.
Unfortunately, for too long, bad-actors in the for-profit education sector have exploited a loophole in the system – known as the 90/10 loophole – and taken advantage of our veterans and their generous education benefits. The 90-10 Rule, a bipartisan federal law that was originally signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, established a “market test” to prevent for-profit schools from receiving 100 percent of their revenues from taxpayers. Republicans and Democrats agreed that a for-profit school should be able to get at least 1 dollar from non-federal sources, like employers, for every 9 dollars it received from taxpayers. However, the 90/10 loophole exists because for-profit schools can count GI Bill benefits as non-federal dollars. This has led to aggressive, and sometimes deceptive, recruitment and marketing to our military and veterans. Even worse, some of the schools that are the largest recipients of those taxpayer funds and GI Bill benefits have gone bankrupt and closed their doors – leaving our veterans and taxpayers in the lurch.
To be clear, not all for-profit schools are bad actors. In fact, many are doing a good job. However, I believe that one veteran misled or mistreated by a for-profit school is one veteran too many. That’s why I have been working for years, alongside our nation’s Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) to protect our military and veteran students and safeguard their hard-earned GI Bill benefits.
Back in 2012, I introduced a bill to close this loophole and stop bad actors in the for-profit college industry from taking advantage of veterans and their hard-earned GI Bill benefits. For years, I have pushed for its passage because this issue is personal to me.
Last week, I was proud to lead a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues – Senator James Lankford and Senator Bill Cassidy, both Republicans, and Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat – in introducing the Protect Veterans’ Education and Taxpayer Spending (Protect VETS) Act of 2019. Our bill is the first-ever bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate that would protect military and veteran students by closing the 90/10 loophole. Specifically, my bill will:
· Close the 90/10 loophole
· Safeguard military and veteran students’ hard-earned GI Bill benefits
· Hold predatory institutions accountable
· Save taxpayer dollars
Introducing the first-ever bipartisan bill in the Senate to close this loophole last week was a huge step forward. And then, this week, we learned that Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which is the committee that oversees higher education issues, is supportive of our efforts! My friend and fellow former governor, Senator Alexander has called our efforts a “responsible and reasonable step to ensure that all of our military and veteran students are attending quality institutions worth their time and money.”
Too often, Americans are left believing that Congress doesn’t get anything done – let alone anything bipartisan. But as I reflect on my years fighting to protect our military and veteran students, I’m reminded of the remarkable progress that can be made when we work together to care for those who have borne the battle. Our work is not yet finished when it comes to closing this loophole, but we’ve come a long way in the past two weeks. Now, it’s time to see this through and ensure that every veteran gets the most out of their hard-earned GI Bill benefits.