Consumer Education Critical to Prospective Student-VeteransMichael Dakduk | Vice President of Military and Veterans Affairs, APSCU
Even with the President’s Executive Order 13607, or Principles of Excellence, and recent legislation enacted into law (Public Law 112-249) — both intended to provide more services and supports to veterans — there still may be gaps in meeting the demand for more consumer information.
A report recently issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) supports this claim. The report indicates that over half of veteran respondents wanted more information on the total cost of education covered by VA benefits, type and amount of other forms of financial aid, future employment potential and support services. The results of the survey, however, may not fully reflect the consumer experiences of current student veterans.
GAO surveyed veterans who began using their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits before this new law went into effect. To date, not all of the features of Public law 112-249, signed into law in January 2013, have been fully implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It remains to be seen whether a public feedback system, not to be confused with the complaint system established by the President’s Executive Order, that allows veterans to comment on their experiences at an institution will be useful. With this new tool, current and future student veterans will ideally have access to more information based on peer feedback. Of course, the effectiveness of this new tool is incumbent upon its successful implementation.
A key solution to the demand for more consumer information, though, is within reach. In fact, bipartisan legislation awaits action in both chambers of Congress. House Resolution 631: Servicemembers’ Choice in Transition Act of 2013, introduced by Chairman Bill Flores and Ranking Member Mark Takano of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, would strengthen the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) by formally linking the optional tracks to the mandatory curriculum.
Currently, there are three optional tracks for transitioning servicemembers, and one is exclusively focused on education. Support for choosing an institution could arguably be addressed in the TAP education track before the servicemember removes the uniform and enrolls in his or her first college course. A bipartisan companion bill, S. 889, introduced last year by Senators John Boozman, Joe Manchin, Jerry Moran and Jon Tester, currently resides in the Senate.
Widespread support exists for both bills, especially among veteran advocates. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Student Veterans of America (SVA) testified last year in support of strengthening the TAP program.
Educating future student veterans on the best schools aligned with their academic and professional goals should happen before they remove the uniform. With a little more fine-tuning, TAP could very well fill this void.
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 The White House Office of the Press Secretary, “Executive Order — Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members,” April 27, 2012, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/27/executive-order-establishing-principles-excellence-educational-instituti (May 15, 2014). and
U.S. Government Printing Office, “Comprehensive Veterans Education Information Policy, Public Law 112-249,” January 10, 2013, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-112publ249/html/PLAW-112publ249.htm (May 15, 2014).
 U.S. Government Accountability Office, “VA EDUCATION BENEFITS: VA Should Strengthen Its Efforts to Help Veterans Make Informed Education Choices,” May 13, 2014, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-324 (May 15, 2014).
 Accessed by reviewing testimony of The American Legion, Student Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Legislative Hearing, U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, April 10, 2013, http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-on-hr-357-hr-562-hr-631-hr-844-hr-1305-hr-1316-hr-1402-a-draft-bill (May 15, 2014).
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