Let’s work together to protect the new GI Bill and student vets

Like many veterans, the GI Bill changed my life. 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 – now known as DEDO.

Today’s veterans can take advantage of a new GI Bill that’s much more generous than the GI Bill of the Vietnam-Era. This new Post-9/11 GI Bill resembles the original GI Bill that sent 8 million World War II veterans to colleges and vocational schools, and helped build the middle class in this country. The Post-9/11 GI Bill can cover the full costs of tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, like the University of Delaware and Delaware State University. The Post-9/11 GI Bill also provides housing and book stipends to allow veterans to pursue their studies without incurring additional financial stress. And veterans can transfer this incredible benefit to a spouse or child.

I was proud to vote to establish the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and, to be clear, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has changed lives for the better. I’ve met countless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have used the new GI Bill to get a college degree that led to a good-paying job in the civilian workforce. Unfortunately, I have also heard from far too many veterans about the questionable recruiting practices and deceptive marketing schemes used by for-profit schools to take advantage of our veterans in order to gain access to their generous GI Bill benefits. 

Earlier this month, a large for-profit college called ITT Tech suddenly closed after years of providing poor educational and employment outcomes to student veterans. There were nearly 7,000 veterans enrolled at ITT Tech using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to finance their education. These veterans can’t get those GI Bill tuition benefits back to put toward their studies at another college. The housing allowance that their families depend on will come to an abrupt halt because they are no longer enrolled in classes. Simply put, they have been robbed of their time and their hard-earned benefits. When these for-profit institutions suddenly close, like ITT Tech did two weeks ago and Corinthian Colleges did last year, they leave veterans and taxpayers in the lurch.

I think this is shameful. And for me, this is personal. The GI Bill changed my life, and I want to make sure every veteran has a similar experience and gets the most out of their hard-earned GI Bill benefits. Congress and the Obama Administration must get to work and protect the new GI Bill and student veterans.

First, we must ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Education work closely to ensure that student veterans at ITT Tech have the resources and guidance they need to transfer and continue their studies at a high-quality institution of higher learning.

And we must also stop for-profit colleges from exploiting something called the 90/10 loophole that allows these businesses to be 100% reliant on taxpayers by targeting our veterans and their generous benefits. I have introduced a bill in Congress to close the 90/10 loophole called the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act and I won’t give up until we close it.

Our veterans and their families have sacrificed for our country, and we owe it to them to protect the benefits they’ve earned through their service. I will continue working to make good on that promise.