WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Patty Murray (D-WA) are slamming Senate Republicans for blocking an attempt to provide much-needed relief for the veterans who have been exploited by fraudulent for-profit colleges. Brown and Carper took to the floor this afternoon and attempted to pass the Department of Veterans Affairs Education Relief and Restoration Act by unanimous consent. The bill would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to begin to restore G.I. Bill benefits of veterans who were affected by the closure of ITT Education Services, Inc. (ITT Tech).
Republicans objected before adjourning for a month, leaving veterans who attended ITT with no relief as Senators left town.
“Too many veterans have been exploited by ITT Tech and other fraudulent for-profit colleges, left unable to secure the good-paying jobs they were promised, and trapped under a mountain of debt,” Brown said. “By failing to act today, the Congress abandoned its responsibility to our nation’s heroes. Congress needs to restore these veterans’ G.I. Bill benefits, allowing them to move past ITT Tech’s closure, enter a new degree program, and secure their educational and financial future.”
“Our nation’s veterans didn’t cause ITT Tech to collapse, and they deserve better. So do our nation’s taxpayers,” said Carper. “The least we can do is provide some modest relief during this tough time, but today we’ve left thousands of veterans and their families in the lurch. When we return from the recess, I hope we will uphold our responsibility to these men and women by taking action on legislation that does more to protect our student veterans and their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits."
“Our nation’s veterans have earned the GI Bill benefits promised to them for tuition and housing assistance. When ITT Tech collapsed earlier this month, an estimated 7,000 veterans lost part, if not all, of their limited GI Bill education benefits and a related housing stipend many used to keep a roof over their heads. Now, they may be in danger of becoming homeless,” said Durbin. “But this wasn’t enough to convince Republicans to join Democrats in passing a bipartisan bill to extend much needed temporary housing assistance to these veterans. Those who have defended our country deserve better.”
“Thousands of veterans, including more than 200 in my home state of Washington, were left in the dust by the sudden closure of a failed for-profit school,” Murray said. “I strongly believe this Congress has a duty to make sure veterans, who sacrificed so much on behalf of our country, have the support they need to stay in their homes and continue their education. I’m disappointed Republicans blocked this legislation today, but I will continue to fight on behalf of veterans and all students affected by the ITT Tech closure.”
Currently, students with federal student loans, have the opportunity to have those loans forgiven when a school, like ITT closes. However, veterans have no way to restore their G.I. benefits.
This month, the Senators wrote to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald to urge the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure veterans have the resources necessary to navigate these ITT’s closure and to make informed decisions about their financial futures. In anticipation of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) likely decision to withdraw recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the letter also urged the VA to increase oversight of higher education institutions and to protect veterans from being exploited by schools that were accredited by bad actors or that are facing financial insolvency.
For-profit colleges are incentivized to target veterans, often with deceptive and misleading marketing and recruitment pitches, because of a loophole in federal law that allows them to take advantage of veterans’ education benefits. Under the 90/10 rule, for-profit education companies can receive no more than 90 percent of their operating revenue from federal student loans and grants. However, U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits are exempt from this rule. The Senators cosponsored the Military and Veterans Education Protection Act – introduced by Carper – which would close this loophole.