VA Trademarks Term “GI Bill” to Fight Misleading Info

soldier-vet-military-studentMillions of dollars in veterans benefits turned student veterans  into targets for misleading advertising by some for-profit schools. The VA’s answer was two fold:

  • Join several state attorneys general and sue the company that owned GIBill.com;
  • Trademark the term “GI Bill”

The VA said schools have ensnared Veterans looking for info by using official-looking websites, which funneled potential recruits to those schools without any balanced, objective information.

The company that owned GIBill.com settled, and the website was turned over to VA and now redirects to the government’s official GI Bill page.

The term ‘GI Bill’ has been trademarked and the VA is the sole owner. The Department of Veterans Affairs soon will issue terms of use for the phrase.

And the VA promised to be vigilant and monitor schools and marketing firms to ensure Veterans aren’t victims of deceptive recruitment.

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6 Steps to Ensure Accountability for Veterans Education

Details from the VA blog, VAntage Point, on President Barack Obama’s Executive Order signed Friday:

  1. Help Ensure Military and Veteran Students Have the Information They Need: Schools that accept  GI Bill tuition will be required to provide the Know Before You Owe financial aid form, which will help inform students on tuition and fees, federal financial aid, and outcomes like graduation rates. We’ll list the schools that participate in the program on our website.
  2. Keep Bad Actors Off of Military Installations:  Schools with a history of poor behavior in their recruitment strategies will be prevented from setting up shop on military bases.
  3. Crack Down on Improper Online Recruiting Practices: Websites with military and Veteran themes have cropped up to give information on programs like the GI Bill, but they often are lead generators that direct students to for-profit schools. We’ve warned Veterans about these sites in the past. To combat this, the order will initiate the process for VA to trademark “GI Bill” in order to avoid confusion on which sites provide accurate information, and which siphon off students to their advertisers.
  4. Provide Veterans with a Complaint System: A centralized complaint system will be established for students receiving using military and Veteran education benefits. Also, the enforcement and compliance functions of those DOD, VA and the Education Department will be strengthened.
  5. Improve Support Services for Service Members and Veterans: Schools must take a leading role to meet the needs of student Veterans. They will provide educational plans for students, academic and financial aid counseling, and a streamlined process to enroll or dis-enroll if service-related reasons come up.
  6. Provide Students with Better Data on Educational Institutions: Retention and completion rates of Veterans are not currently tracked. This will change that in order to measure success of government and academic efforts to help Veterans complete their education.

4 Ways the White House Plans to Stop “GI Bill” Predators

Photo courtesy of Education Portal.com

Not waiting for Congress to act, President Barack Obama will sign an executive order Friday aimed at protecting military families and veterans from the deceptive practices of some for-profit colleges.

Recipients of the GI Bill are often targeted by “diploma mills” because of the “easy availability of the federal loan money.” The order will make it harder for post-secondary and technical schools to misrepresent themselves.

Four protective actions aimed at preventing the predatory practices:

  1. “Know Before You Owe – Schools will be required to provide this federal form explaining financial aid to veterans and military personnel on he GI Bill.
  2. Schools that Comply – The VA will post on its website which schools have agreed to follow the executive order and follow the protections.
  3. Registering the “GI Bill” – To protect the term from being misused, the VA will register the term.
  4. Complaint Central – the federal government is ordered to establish one central location where veterans and military families can report a problem or file a complaint making it easier for federal agencies to investigate.

The VA website offers a step-by-step process to the GI Bill, programs and benefits.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a very helpful site that a GI Bill  calculator as well as advice from a fellow Vet and information about schools.

The Student Veterans Association revoked its chapters at 26 for-profit schools because of suspect marketing practices.

Veterans Post 9/11 GI Bill Targeted by For-Profit Schools

Iraq war veteran Paul Rieckhoff (right) with Sens. Mark Begich (D-Ala.), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), introduces the GI benefit watchdog bill in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP courtesy NPR

Authorities are investigating websites known as “lead generators” that have targeted veterans Post 9/11 GI education benefits.

The “lead generators” – some trying to appear as government websites – get veterans to share their email address and phone number and then sell that information. National Public Radio reports:

Lead generators like Quinstreet sell the information they collect primarily to for-profit colleges and universities. With their generous marketing budgets, for-profit schools can afford to pay for leads to guide them to vets considering enrolling in college.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is leading a multi-state investigation of for-profit colleges. He’s scrutinizing the sites targeting veterans, trying to ensure they are “engaged in the type of consumer interaction that does not violate our various consumer protection acts in our respective states.”

In other words, he’s trying to assess if the companies are pretending to be government web sites. Some of the sites have disclaimers, but others do not.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has its own Post 9/11 GI Bill website, but does not have the marketing money to promote it like “lead generator” sites. So another tip, look for the .gov to assure it is a VA run site. If the web address ends in a .com – it’s a commercial site and you should be more cautious about sharing your contact information.

VA Disqualifies Three Campuses to Protect GI Bill Students

This is a partial article from Military Advantage Blog written by Terry Howell. You can find the full article here.

The Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs recently dis­qual­i­fied three West­wood Col­lege cam­puses in Texas from receiv­ing GI Bill funds in an effort to pro­tect prospec­tive vet­eran stu­dents from the school’s decep­tive admis­sions prac­tices. The move to with­draw the school’s GI Bill eli­gi­bil­ity was made after the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­ity Office reported that West­wood and 14 other schools made ques­tion­able state­ments about grad­u­a­tion rates, failed to pro­vide clear infor­ma­tion about the program’s cost, and exag­ger­ated appli­cants’ poten­tial earn­ings.

The removal of these three schools is part of a larger effort to crack down on higher edu­ca­tion insti­tu­tions that use decep­tive admis­sions processes and heavy-handed tech­niques to per­suade stu­dents to enroll in their edu­ca­tion pro­grams.

The fol­low­ing arti­cles offer advice to help vets avoid get­ting ripped off:

In addi­tion, VA Blog­ger Alex Hor­ton has writ­ten a help­ful arti­cle on the Six Ways to Max­i­mize Your Edu­ca­tion Ben­e­fits.

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