Eight U.S. senators are demanding that the Department of Veterans Affairs launch an inquiry into revelations that GI Bill tuition subsidies have flowed to “educationally questionable, and in some instances morally repugnant, institutions that have inexplicably received VA education benefits.”
In a letter sent late Friday to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, the senators cited a report published Wednesday by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, which found that 2,000 unaccredited schools had received taxpayer money to educate Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, with a price tag of more than $260 million.
The list includes a Bible college that is part of a church on a list of hate groups and an institute on human sexuality that teaches masturbation and claims to be in possession of child pornography.
The senators, led by Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, called the expenditure of taxpayer money on such schools a “terrible failure of our promise to veterans and taxpayers.”
Asked about the senators’ letter, VA press secretary James Hutton said the agency is “committed to working with stakeholders and Congress to address concerns” about schools that receive GI Bill money.
By law, unaccredited schools that receive GI Bill funds must prove that “the courses, curriculum, and instruction are consistent in quality, content, and length” with recognized academic standards. They also must avoid deceptive advertising practices, show they are financially sound and demonstrate that their “administrators, directors, owners, and instructors are of good reputation and character.”
The VA works with state regulators to enforce those standards.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, also signed the letter to McDonald, as did Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Dianne Feinstein of California, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Tom Carper of Delaware, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Patty Murray of Washington.
“More than 2,000 unaccredited schools are receiving GI benefits according to a new report,” Feinstein said in a tweet. “That is not the intent of the program.”
She said she joined her colleagues in “urging Secretary McDonald to ensure veterans receive quality education with GI benefits.”
Friday’s letter marks the second time within a month that lawmakers responded to Reveal’s reporting on the GI Bill with calls for an investigation.
Last month, a Reveal exposé documenting the University of Phoenix’s recruiting practices sparked Durbin to write to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. In his letter, Durbin asked the Pentagon to investigate the allegations made in the report and take immediate action to bar the company from further access to service members until the issues are resolved.
The Pentagon has said it takes the matter seriously and is investigating.