VA strips California of its ability to oversee education benefits for student veterans

Connecting Vets
September 10, 2019 - 11:01 am
Veterans Affairs cancels GI Bill contract with CalVet

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An agency within the California Department of Veteran Affairs will no longer have the authority to delegate education benefits for its student veteran residents.

Previously, the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education (CSAAVE) was responsible for verifying the quality of over 1,000 schools in the state. But last week the Department of Veteran Affairs sent a letter to the agency announcing it will no longer have that power.

VA determined CSAAVE's performance declined and cited various instances which warranted them losing their authority.

The agency, "refused to approve programs on military bases in multiple instances, erroneously suspended or withdrew public institutions of higher learning, failed to identify or take action on potentially erroneous, deceptive, or misleading advertisement practices and failed to complete the required audits," according to the letter.

During a 2017 annual performance evaluation, it was found that CSAAVE completed 75 percent of its compliance surveys when the goal target was 90 percent. VA also claims the agency failed to properly suspend certain programs offered to veterans by out-of-state colleges who didn't meet regulations.

While the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) seems to disagree, one student veterans advocacy group believes this is a step in the right direction. 

"We applaud the VA for finally taking action and coming up with a team [I understand] of about ten individuals to step in and really do something and bring in that level of accountability that needs to be there," said William Hubbard, chief of staff of Student Veterans of America. "The reality is not all schools are fit to play in 'GI Bill' land."

VA will now handle the large task of identifying failing education programs and ensuring colleges and universities are upholding certain standards which ensure veterans are receiving a quality education. 

Lindsey Sin, spokeswoman for CalVet called VA's letter inaccurate and that "California has a well-earned reputation for aggressively investigating and taking immediate action against schools and programs that are not complying with applicable laws or are otherwise trying to defraud veterans." 

If CSAAVE is interested in re-entering their agreement with VA in 2021 and regaining their approval authority, VA says they will discuss those details next April or May.

"It's a high bar...seeing the standards personally, VA is not messing around. Schools are going to have to meet that if they want to access those GI bill funds," said Hubbard.

The changeover will go into effect Oct.1, for fiscal year 2020. Lin assures veterans there is no threat of education benefits being lost. 

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