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For-Profit School Deceives Veterans

For-Profit School Deceives Vets, VA Pulls GI Bill Funds

 

Last month, I wrote about ways to maximize your educations benefits after leaving the service. In the piece, I wrote about how it’s important to verify information furnished by schools that might be misleading—usually when it comes from certain schools that tend to overpromise the value and earning power of their degrees. Research and hard questions about a school’s operation can help minimize the predatory practices of some schools. Still, abuses happen. And that’s why VA recently withdrew education benefit payments from one for-profit school where such misuse took place.

Three separate campuses of Westwood College in Texas (Houston South, Dallas and Ft. Worth) were disqualified by VA under rules meant to protect students from schools that purposely deceive their students. For-profit, online schools serve a valuable role for some students and we certainly don’t want to see reductions in education options for any Veteran. But at the same time, VA has a responsibility to ensure benefits used by Vets help them reach their goals after serving. These crucial tuition payments, in turn, should not go to institutions that put profits ahead of quality education.


In situations like these, schools are given an opportunity to resolve their issues before drastic action is taken. When all other avenues are exhausted, VA doesn’t hesitate to step in to protect Veterans and their family members. In December of last year, this is exactly what happened with Westwood College’s campuses in Texas.

So what happens next? Last fall was the last semester students were eligible to use VA benefits at those campuses. The Texas Veterans Commission, the regulator of GI Bill approved programs within the state, will work with Westwood to resolve their outstanding issues. Only then can Westwood be recertified to accept VA tuition payments. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments.

If you’re an affected student at one of these schools, there are options to continue using your education benefits elsewhere. For an official list of Texas schools, go here and click on Texas. You can also look at these unofficial lists of Texas colleges broken down by the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex and Houston. Just be sure whatever school interests you is approved for VA benefits.

It’s both unfortunate and shameful to see an institution of higher learning behave so inappropriately toward those who’ve served the country. Hopefully this conduct by Westwood College will be the last instance of a school engaging in similar deceptive tactics driven by profit motives. And if not, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye out for Veterans and their families.


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Private School Tuition Cap Looms Over Vets

 

When I decided to take a job at VA, it came at the cost of my education. I was in the middle of my sixth straight semester in Texas and was on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree by spring 2012 using the GI Bill. Against the advice of many people who wanted to see me walk the stage on time, I chose an opportunity to change the way the government communicates with Veterans. The promise I made to my father before I left home was this: I would finish a degree that I looked forward to ever since coming home from Iraq.

Almost a year later, I join hundreds of students facing an unknown future when new GI Bill legislation takes effect, particularly a cap for private school tuition. Since I live and work in Washington DC, my options for college are pretty much limited to the private schools that dot the city. While the GI Bill covers tuition at every public school in the country, it leaves private schools to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. In the past, Yellow Ribbon allowed VA and a private school to split the difference of the tuition that exceeded the highest in-state public tuition in a particular state. But starting this fall, the cap will be uniform across the country. A maximum of $17,500 will be available to private school students. While schools can still elect to participate in Yellow Ribbon, this puts pressure on programs that would have to pay a bigger difference than before. Not to mention the growing anxiety many students feel as fall approaches with few answers to life-altering questions.

Yesterday, Secretary Shinseki urged some 1,100 private schools to continue their support of the Yellow Ribbon program. He spoke about the shared responsibility of both VA and universities to “ensure that our servicemembers, Veterans and dependents receive the education benefits they have earned.” His words come at a time when Vets are returning from multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and coming home to a nation that has little sense of common duty for the wars. Veterans and servicemembers alike remain disturbingly disconnected from the people they served. It’s only, then, prudent to focus reintegration efforts on where Vets are going, and often that’s the classroom.

Universities, especially those elite private schools that are often isolated from society, can only benefit from a strong Veteran presence on campus. Diversity is a buzzword that you can’t escape on a college campus, and Vets bring a stunning variety of ages, abilities, backgrounds and talents. They are generally more disciplined, better skilled and equipped for the strains of college life far more than most students. But come this fall, private university presidents and advisory boards will be faced with a tough decision: Dig in their pockets to keep their Yellow Ribbon Programs going, or tell their student Veterans to take on debt or find some other school to fulfill their educational goals. They must know that the latter choice will dilute the diversity of their student body, disrupt reintegration and force students to make hasty financial decisions.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Iraq Veteran Daniel Caldwell discussed the implications of a cap at VAntage Point back in December. Last month, Active Duty Naval Commander Herb Carmen, a graduate student at Georgetown, expressed concern that a midstream change in tuition rules would force many students to either quit school or change programs they were told would be fully covered under Yellow Ribbon. Herb estimates that he, along with other active duty and Veteran students, will be on the hook for $29,000 the next academic year. When they enrolled, it was with the confidence that they would pay nothing as a result of their service in the military.

Perhaps the worst part of the change is that schools and affected students alike do not know what is going to happen this fall. Will students have to drastically change their plans? Will they have to pay out of pocket or take out loans? Will schools abandon Yellow Ribbon or reduce the number of eligible students for the program? Columbia University is scrambling for answers to those questions before the August 1 rollover date. It’s not clear if other private schools are following its example.

Since I don’t work on the Hill and have no clout when it comes to possible legislation, I can only offer practical recommendations to assuage this growing problem facing Veterans. For one, college presidents and advisory boards must look at every conceivable source of revenue to fill Yellow Ribbon coffers. That means going to the alums and asking them to give back to Vets, fund raise throughout the year and create Veteran-only scholarships that can help zero out the difference after the tuition cap of $17,500. Private schools could even engage in a friendly competition to have the highest percentage of student Vets on campus.

Time has flown by since I made a promise to my father to finish my education. The promise will be kept. The question is, at what cost, of both time and money? The rest of my life will be affected by where and what I study, and as the fall semester looms, I can’t be sure of either of the two. The amount of human capital that Veterans have invested since September 11 can be measured in blood, sweat, limbs and peace of mind. We come hardwired to accomplish the next mission–we just need the tools to succeed. Will those in a position to make an impact stand ready to supply them?


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Senate Rejects $250 Checks for Elderly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A measure to give some 57 million elderly people, veterans and persons with disabilities a $250 check was rejected by the Senate on Wednesday, a setback for the powerful seniors' lobby.

President Barack Obama has called for Congress to approve the payments to make up for their benefits not increasing this year, but the Senate defeated it 50 to 47.

The payments would have added $13 billion to a $108 billion job-creation package pending in the Senate.

Congress approved payments last year as part of the $862 billion stimulus package.

Social Security payments for the elderly and disabled will stay flat this year for the first time since 1975 because they are tied to consumer prices, which decreased amid the worst economic recession in 70 years.

That follows a year in which payments rose by 5.8 percent, largely due to a spike in gasoline prices.

"It is wrong to turn our backs on seniors in this moment of economic difficulty," said Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who sponsored the amendment.

But Republican Senator Judd Gregg pointed out that the bill would defeat the purpose of indexing Social Security payments to inflation.

"The law says it shouldn't be given," Gregg said.

At least 10 Democrats agreed with Gregg and joined 40 Republicans to defeat the proposal.

 


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Care for PTSD Veterans is Waste of Money

Sally Satel Still Selling Care for PTSD Veterans is Waste of Money

February 19, 2011 posted by Chaplain Kathie via Veterans Today

Something Evil This Way Comes

Sally Satel is still at it with the support from American Enterprise Institute. For years she’s been trying to say that PTSD is nothing more than veterans looking for an easy ride. She hasn’t changed and her claims remain that taking care of veterans with PTSD is a waste of money.

Below is a an excerpt from the American Enterprise Institute press release promoting that PTSD is a waste of money.


Sally Satel

Veterans: What’s Wrong with Current Treatments?

As the White House proposes a $7.2 billion allocation in its 2012 budget to fund research and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) scholar and psychiatrist Sally Satel explains the number of problems with current PTSD treatments and proposes methods to optimize the use of PTSD funding.

Among Satel’s key points:

A “culture of clinical diagnosis” allows mental health examiners to diagnose a veteran’s level of disability before veterans have even begun rehab. This convinces the patient that future health is unattainable, and gives individual veterans dismal prospects for meaningful recovery even before a course of therapy.

Disability benefits themselves can sometimes cause inadvertent damage by incentivizing unemployment and dependency and discouraging veterans from returning to the civilian workforce.

Collaboration between the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) needs to improve. The VBA often aims to maximize veteran benefits while giving no attention to improving clinical treatment, while the VHA often focuses solely on treatment without properly assisting veterans with financial hardships.

Sally Satel can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (202.862.7154) or through her assistant at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (202.862.4876). For all other media inquiries, please contact Hampton Foushee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (202.862.5806).

AEI’s in-house ReadyCam TV studio–for live and taped interviews–can be booked through VideoLink at 617.340.4300.


Another load of scholarly wisdom shoveled out on veteran’s heads. Guess she never met the veterans waiting for month after month, even years, to have a claim approved only to discover that a disability worthy of 100% will only receive 50% or less making them file an appeal and fight for the rest. This is not even addressing the fact that until they receive the disability rating, there is no income for them to live off of if they cannot work. This the case of PTSD, veterans usually cannot work because of the medications, flashbacks and nightmares and all around reduced quality of life.

The fact is, the sooner veterans are helped to heal, the more parts of their lives they can get back. The longer PTSD is allowed to continue destroying lives, the worse it gets. Yet as bad as this news is, Vietnam veterans have shown that even after 30 or 40 years they can heal enough to have happier lives. Does this mean they can suddenly return to work? Usually not simply because of the medications they are given prevent it. This is why so many of them volunteer their time to help others. They want to stay involved and are not lazy but as a volunteer they don’t have to punch a clock or show up after another night of nightmares to battle. If they get a flashback in the middle of the day, they get to just leave instead of dealing with a boss wanting to fire them or coworkers trying to get them to go off on them for the fun of it. Somehow watching a coworker duck under a table or freak out with a loud bang makes their day.

Oh, but Sally is not alone on this. This attitude has been around as long as I can remember. There was a time when the draft forced young men to go to war no matter what they thought. Then when they came home, there were some saying these drafted combat veterans were more likely to seek disability because they didn’t want to go in the first place. This changed when even veterans wanting to serve were coming back with the same kind of wounds. Now after all the years of research, Satel is still at it even though today’s veterans all volunteered indicating a commitment to others so deep they are willing to die. How could she even suggest that these same people suddenly turned into someone looking to make easy money for the rest of their lives? This is no way comes close to addressing the fact that when you break down the money veterans receive, even with 100%, they could make a lot more money working.

So what happens? We see them lose their homes because they cannot work and the VA has not approved their claim. They are told that they have free care when they come home but no one is telling them how to pay their bills when they have no pay checks. A soldier, planning to serve a lifetime, wanting to do nothing else, has to leave the military because of PTSD, is suddenly left with what PTSD is doing to him along with the fact he is left with no idea what to do.

We see what PTSD does to them and their lives but people like Satel see a dollar sign on their heads then insults them. What part of they cannot work is she determined to keep missing? Why isn’t this woman interested in finding out what works to help them heal as much as she wants to go after what little they do get?

At least we can take comfort in the fact she has been saying the same thing for years but her claims have not stopped advances in helping veterans.


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Take Action for Our Elderly Veterans!

Elderly veterans should receive the care they need without having to fight for it. Take action for them now!
Sponsored by: The Veterans Site

Many of America's elderly veterans are finding it more difficult to find and sustain housing and health care. The fact is our older veterans often have a much more difficult time because not only are they at times unaware of resources available to them, but also because the United States simply does not allocate enough funding and care toward caring for our elderly service members.

The bottom line is that no one who's served in the military — especially those who are elderly — should have to worry about health care, housing, or food. It's appalling that so many of our geriatric veterans are living without assistance.

Just the same as we're taking care of those who are just now returning from duty, we can't forget about the service elderly veterans once provided our country.


Sign the petition asking Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, to concentrate more focus on caring for our older veterans.

Dear Senator Murray,

I am writing to ask for your participation in creating programs and allocating funding toward taking care of our elderly veterans. The fact is, older veterans struggling more than they should have to in order to simply sustain health care or find suitable housing. That we as a country aren't removing these worries for our veterans completely is appalling.

Someone who has sacrificed so much for his or her country shouldn't be forced to worry about where the next meal will come from or how they are going to pay for their required prescriptions.

Please use your position as Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee to address the problem of elder veteran hunger, homelessness, and lack of health care. Do the right thing for those who have laid down their lives for our country.

Thank you for your time.

Sign Here


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