Congress is reportedly expected to consider a revised version of H.R. 4625, the Protect the GI Bill Act, as part of a larger package of veteran-related bills.
The House passed the original version of the measure in November 2019. While generally supportive of the bill's goals, AACRAO issued concerns that some provisions would be problematic for institutions.
In response to feedback from AACRAO and other higher education associations, the modified legislation includes some improvements to the earlier bill, such as eliminating a provision that would have required institutions to verify student enrollment to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on a monthly basis. However, other concerns remain. Ahead of consideration of the updated legislation, AACRAO joined 14 higher education groups in letters to House and Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs leaders regarding the revised Protect the GI Bill Act.
The letters express support for the broader objective of the legislation to "provide important protections for student veterans and for taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse," as well as the important improvements and clarifications included in the updated language. However, the groups note some concerns regarding several provisions that could create unintended consequences for veterans and institutions.
In particular, section 12 of the revised bill includes language that would make colleges and universities responsible for repaying the VA for the amount of overpayments of tuition and fees that result from changes to a veteran's enrollment status. Currently, when a veteran drops a class or withdraws from a program, the VA treats that as a debt owed by the veteran back to the institution. Under the bill, institutions would be responsible for paying back this debt, effectively putting colleges and universities in the unreasonable position of becoming the VA's debt collector.
"Given the potential for unintended consequences, we would encourage the Committee to eliminate this section of the bill and instead require the GAO, with assistance from VA, to prepare a follow-up report for Congress further examining this issue upon implementation of the Protect the GI Bill Act," the groups request, among other things.
Community Letter to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs on the Protect the GI Bill Act
Community Letter to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on the Protect the GI Bill Acthttps://www.aacrao.org/docs/default-source/statements-and-letters/letter-hvac-protect-the-gi-bill-act-120320.pdf