If you’ve used the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you know it is a pretty great deal: tuition and fees, book money, housing stipend. Well, colleges recognize a good thing when they see it, too, and the Post-9/11 GI Bill means dollar signs for them. Some of them will go to great lengths to get that money and not all of it above board.
My students used to tell me awful stories about previous schools that had given them false information about tuition costs or conned them into signing for huge private loans. Then, I was the only person they could tell about it and all I could do was shake my head. But now, VA has introduced the GI Bill Feedback System, where students experiencing this kind of thing can lodge complaints.
The GI Bill Feedback System is a collaboration between the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education, and Justice, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission. The system allows students using VA education benefits to submit complaints directly to the VA. The student may submit complaints either anonymously or by name and either for themselves or on behalf of another individual.
This system is specifically designed for complaints about violations of the “Principles of Excellence” in the following areas: Recruiting/Marketing Practices, Accreditation, Financial Issues (such as tuition and fee charges), Quality of Education, Grade Policy, Release of Transcripts, Transfer of Credits, Refund Issues, Student Loans, Change in Degree Plan/Requirements, and Post-Graduation Job Opportunities. All questions about pay and eligibility should still be referred to the VA Education Line or the “Ask a Question” website.
If you choose to file a complaint, the complaint form is fairly simple (4 screens worth). You’ll be asked to provide information on which VA education benefit you are using, what your complaint is, and what you believe would be a “fair resolution” to this issue. You will also be asked to provide the name of your college and your contact information.
After your complaint has been submitted, “routine” complaints will be routed to the school for resolution while “egregious” complaints will be forwarded to the correct organization, such as the DoJ, for further investigation and resolution. If your complaint is sent to the school, the school certifying official will be contacted. (Schools can appoint someone other than the SCO to review and resolve the complaint.) Schools should respond within 60 days, at which point VA will forward the response to you and both the complaint and the response will be sent to the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network, where it will be accessible by federal, state, and local law enforcement.
Between what I heard from my students and my own experiences, I can say that a system like this was definitely needed. As a former School Certifying Official, though, I have to say that I hope students who have a complaint with their SCO would attempt to resolve it at that level first, not just out of courtesy, but also to leave the VA complaint system open for serious issues that can’t otherwise be resolved. But that’s just my two cents worth.
You can find the VA GI Bill Feedback System here.
© 2014, Sarah Maples. All rights reserved.