For the past two years, the University of Phoenix has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to hold employment workshops at Hiring Our Heroes job fairs, including this one last August in Fort Bragg, N.C. Credit: Sara D. Davis/AP Images/U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Veterans groups and a key member of Congress, who have pressed for wider inquiries into for-profit schools, are defending the Defense Department’s decision to withhold new tuition assistance money from the University of Phoenix because of violations of military rules.

In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., referred to the findings of a Reveal investigation that found a number of violations, including using job-hunting workshops to boost enrollment and placing military insignias on special coins.

Because of the violations, the Pentagon informed the school on Oct. 7 that it would be barred from recruiting at military facilities and placed on probationary status in the military’s tuition assistance program, enrolling no new students.

Last week, a trio of other senators, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., urged the Pentagon to lift the restrictions, saying the violations were minor and did not merit the severity of the punishment.

Durbin disagreed.

“There is no question that the Department of Defense has a duty and a responsibility to take appropriate action against those who violate rules and regulations related to voluntary military education programs – and the suggestion otherwise is astonishing to me,” he said in his floor speech.

Yesterday, a letter signed by 33 organizations urged Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to do more to protect educational programs for military personnel and veterans.

“Failure to take swift and serious action against violations … harms service members, taxpayers, and the program itself, and sends the wrong message,” the letter said.

The groups called the Defense Department’s actions against the University of Phoenix prudent.

While the department’s website lists the school as being on probation, the groups urged the department to alert military personnel currently enrolled at the university not only about the military’s recent actions against the school but also about ongoing investigations by the Federal Trade Commission and the California attorney general’s office.

Bobby Caina Calvan

Bobby Caina Calvan is the collaborations editor for Reveal. He was most recently director of operations for The Fund for Investigative Journalism, a Washington-based nonprofit that awards grants to freelance and independent investigative journalists. He thrives on watchdog journalism. He's worked in some of the country's best newsrooms, including The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The Sacramento Bee and the Detroit Free Press. He's covered the war in Iraq, the national debate over health care, the 2012 presidential race and other high-profile elections.

While Calvan has worked in some of the country's biggest news outlets, his roots are firmly in local news. His career transcends platforms, and he has produced stories for print, digital, radio and television. He spent a year on a journalism diversity initiative in Nebraska called The Heartland Project, where he spearheaded collaborations with newsrooms across the state to enhance coverage of communities of color and LGBT issues. Inclusive journalism is in his DNA, and so is his strong advocacy for mentoring the next generation of journalists.

Calvan grew up on a dairy farm at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains in Waimanalo, Hawaii – which might explain why he spent his first year of college at New York University and followed his sense of adventure into a career in journalism. He completed his college career at the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in legal studies. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.