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Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

By Mrs. MURRAY (for herself, Mr. Akaka, Mr. Begich, Mr. Brown of Ohio, Mr. Rockefeller, Mr. Coons, Mr. Harkin, Mr. Inouye, Mr. Leahy, and Mr. Whitehouse):

S. 2241. A bill to ensure that veterans have the information and protections they require to make informed decisions regarding use of Post-9/11 Educational Assistance, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Sen. Patty Murray

legislator photo

Mr. President, today, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I am proud to introduce the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012.

My colleagues, including my fellow Veterans' Affairs Committee Members Senators Akaka, Begich, Brown of Ohio and Rockefeller, and my Senate colleagues Senators Coons, Harkin, Inouye, Leahy, and Whitehouse, join me in introducing this important legislation. I appreciate their continued support of our Nation's veterans.

With the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, more servicemembers are separating from the military to start their civilian careers. When my father came home from war, the GI Bill helped him go to college. He used that education to get a job, one that gave him pride. That's the opportunity we must provide those returning from today's wars.

America's investment in its newest generation of veterans is tremendous.

In 2012, over 590,000 servicemembers, veterans, and other beneficiaries are expected to enroll in educational institutions using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. VA is expected to spend over $9 billion dollars in 2012 on Post-9/11 GI Bill payments and over $2 billion for the nearly 400,000 beneficiaries of the VA's other education programs. Despite this level of support, those returning from today's wars are unable to use VA educational benefits to their full potential. Today, that ends.

At its heart, the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act would take significant steps to make certain that GI Bill beneficiaries have access to information to help them make informed decisions about the educational institutions they attend, so they get the most out of this tremendous benefit. This bill would also require VA and DoD to develop a joint policy to curb aggressive recruiting and misleading marketing aimed at servicemembers and veterans so they can make a decision on a school without bad actors exerting unfair influence on them.

Many servicemembers and veterans attend educational institutions that do not suit their intended goals. This shouldn't be the case. Servicemembers and veterans should enroll in educational institutions which put them on the path to a successful career, or allow them to access more post-secondary education opportunities. For many years we have provided VA educational beneficiaries with billions of dollars in educational assistance, but have given them little to no assistance in deciding where to use these benefits. This bill would put an end to that.

The GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act calls for disclosure of, among other data, statistics related to student loan debt, transferability of credits earned, veteran enrollment, program preparation for licensing and certification, and job placement rates. heard from many veterans that this type of information would be very useful to them as they make decisions about where to enroll.

My bill would also require VA to provide educational beneficiaries with easy-to-understand information about schools that are approved for GI Bill benefit use. Collecting data for data's sake is not the goal here. I want VA to use this information to develop a report card of sorts that allows veterans to see how one school compares against another to help them decide which school is right for them.

We must acknowledge the differences between student veterans and their civilian classmates. Unlike their classmates, servicemembers and veterans need to know what services institutions provide to ease their difficult transition to civilian life. Some educational institutions provide more support than others.

The University of Washington, one of the oldest public universities in my home state, serves as an example of what all universities should be doing. Through its Veterans Center, the University of Washington offers its student veterans a place to connect with other veterans, access university resources, and receive referrals to campus and community resources that help to balance academic and personal demands. The University of Washington is helping to ease the transition from the battlefield to the classroom, and these types of services should be replicated across the country.

Despite this bright spot, I have heard from servicemembers and veterans who don't think their schools are in touch with the assistance that VA and other Agencies can provide to them. The GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act would require educational institutions to have at least one employee who is knowledgeable about benefits available to servicemembers and veterans.

My bill would further require that academic advising, tutoring, career and placement counseling services, and referrals to Vet Centers are available and that faculty members are trained on matters that are relevant to servicemembers and veterans. I want to make sure that each educational institution that is approved for GI Bill education benefits has the support services that student veterans need in order to make the most of their educational experience. No veteran should step on a college campus in this country and feel unsupported.

I am concerned about what I am seeing and hearing about groups who mislead our servicemembers and veterans--just to boost enrollment of students with a very lucrative benefit. The GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act would require VA and DoD to develop a joint policy on aggressive recruiting and misleading marketing aimed at servicemembers, veterans, and other beneficiaries.

When servicemembers and veterans make a decision about a school--it should be done with their own best interests at heart, and in consultation with their families and those Agencies with a mandate to help them. The GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act would make educational counseling available to more beneficiaries. As long as a beneficiary has educational entitlement--counseling from VA would be available. I really want VA to be proactive in its efforts to get these servicemembers and veterans in for counseling. This is an important step in choosing a school and career path and one that I hope that more student veterans take advantage of.

This is not a full summary of all the provisions within this legislation. However, I hope that I have provided an appropriate overview of the major benefits this legislation would provide for America's servicemembers after they leave military service. I also ask our colleagues for their continued support for the Nation's veterans.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012''.

(a) Publication by Secretary of Veterans Affairs.-- (1) In general.--Subchapter II of chapter 36 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

(a) Additional Requirements Under Title 38.-- (1) In general.--Subchapter I of chapter 36 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

(a) Policies to Curb Aggressive Recruiting.--Section 3696 of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) in subsection (a)-- (A) by inserting ``, including utilizing third-party lead generators that gather names of prospective students through the use deceptive or misleading acts or practices'' before the period at the end; and (B) by inserting ``(1)'' before ``The Secretary''; (2) by redesignating subsections (b) and (c) as paragraphs (2) and (3), respectively; (3) in paragraph (3), as redesignated by paragraph (2), by striking ``under subsection (a)'' each place it appears and inserting ``under paragraph (1)''; (4) by striking ``this section'' each place it appears and inserting ``this subsection''; and (5) by adding at the end the following new subsection (b): ``(b) Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense shall jointly develop policies to curb aggressive recruiting of veterans and members of the Armed Forces by educational institutions.''. (b) Prohibition on Inducements.--Such section is further amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(c) The Secretary shall not approve a course offered by an educational institution if the educational institution uses inducements or provides any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality loan, transportation, lodging, meals, or other item having a monetary value of more than a de minimis amount to any individual or entity (other than salaries paid to employees or fees paid to contractors in conformity with all applicable provisions of law) for the purpose of securing enrollments.''. (c) Working Group.-- (1) In general.--Chapter 36 of such title is amended by inserting after section 3692 the following new section:

(a) In General.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall, in collaboration with the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Education, assess the quality and delivery of career information and counseling provided to members of the Armed Forces and veterans enrolled in (or planning to enroll in) programs of education with assistance under chapter 106A or 1606 of title 10, United States Code, or any of chapters 30 through 36 of title 38, United States Code. Such assessment shall address, at minimum, the following: (1) Whether such information and counseling is relevant to the labor-markets in which such members or veterans plan to relocate, if applicable. (2) Whether such information and counseling identifies careers that are available in in-demand occupations and industries in such labor-markets. (3) Whether such information and counseling identifies the education and credentials required for such careers. (4) Whether assessments provided to such members and veterans as part of such counseling of the skills and credentials of such members and veterans match such skills and credentials with the skills and credentials required for jobs in the civilian workforce. (5) Whether the assessments described in paragraph (4) identify the additional skills or credentials members and veterans described in such paragraph may need for employment in jobs in the civilian workforce. (6) Whether such information identifies the education and training programs that provide the skills necessary for such careers in such labor-markets. (7) Whether such information is provided in a timely manner. (b) Collaboration With the One-stop Delivery System and Transition Assistance Programs.--In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veteran Affairs shall, in collaboration with the Secretary of Labor, determine how programs that provide education and career counseling services to members of the Armed Forces and veterans under laws administered by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should-- (1) collaborate and improve information sharing with one- stop delivery systems established under section 134(c) of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 2864(c)), including collaboration through electronic means, to provide the information described in subsection (a) to the members of the Armed Forces before such members transition from service in the Armed Forces to civilian life; and (2) coordinate with-- (A) each other; (B) the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) of the Department of Defense; (C) the services provided under sections 1142, 1143, and 1144 of title 10, United States Code; (D) the programs established under section 235(b) of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011(Public Law 112 56; 38 U.S.C. 4214 note); and (E) the demonstration project established under section 4114 of title 38, United States Code. (c) Report.-- (1) In general.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report on the assessment completed under subsection (a), including recommendations for such legislative, regulatory, and administrative action as the Secretaries consider necessary to improve the provision of career information relevant to programs of education pursued by members of the Armed Forces and veterans to such members and veterans. (2) Appropriate committees of congress.--In this subsection, the term ``appropriate committees of Congress'' means-- (A) the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate; and (B) the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives.

Section 3697A(b) of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by striking paragraphs (2) and (3); (2) in paragraph (1), by adding ``or'' at the end; and (3) by adding at the end the following new paragraph (2): ``(2) is serving on active duty in any State with the Armed Forces and has served in the Armed Forces on active duty for not fewer than 180 days.''.

(a) In General.--Chapter 36 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 3693 the following new section:

(a) In General.--Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act and two and four years thereafter, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall, in collaboration with the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Defense, collect and disseminate information about best practices for the provision by educational institutions of assistance to students who are veterans and students who are members of the Armed Forces to help them successfully enter, persist in, and complete programs of education. (b) Consultation With Veterans Service Organizations.--In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall consult with veterans service organizations and educational institutions.

Section 3697 of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by striking subsection (b); and (2) in subsection (a), by striking ``(a) Subject to subsection (b) of this section, educational'' and inserting ``Educational''.

Section 3684 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(d) Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of the GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012, the Secretary shall ensure that the Department employs personnel dedicated to assisting personnel of educational institutions who are charged with submitting reports or certifications to the Secretary under this section.''.

(a) In General.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives a report on the receipt of educational assistance under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs during the last academic year ending before the submittal of the report. (b) Elements.--The report required by subsection (a) shall include the following, for the period covered by the report: (1) A list of all educational institutions at which an individual is enrolled in a program of education for which the individual receives assistance under a law administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. (2) For each educational institution listed under paragraph (1), the number of individuals who receive assistance under a law administered by the Secretary to pursue a program of education at the educational institution. (3) For each educational institution listed under paragraph (1), the total amount of assistance paid under laws administered by the Secretary to individuals enrolled in programs of education at the educational institution for pursuit of such programs and paid to the educational institution for the education of individuals.

(a) Establishment of Metrics.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Labor, establish metrics for tracking the successful completion of education and workforce training programs carried out under laws administered by the Secretary of Defense. (b) Report on Metrics.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report on the metrics establish under subsection (a), including a description of each such metric. (c) Annual Assessment.--Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act and not less frequently than once each year thereafter, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress an assessment of the education and workforce training programs described in subsection (a) using the metrics established under such subsection. (d) Appropriate Committees of Congress.--In this section, the term ``appropriate committees of Congress'' means-- (1) the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and (2) the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of representatives.

Nothing in this title or any of the amendments made by this title shall be construed to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Education, or the Secretary of Labor to release to the public information about an individual that is otherwise prohibited by a provision of law.

In this Act: (1) Educational institution and program of education.--The terms ``educational institution'' and ``program of education'' have the meanings given such terms in section 3501 of title 38, United States Code. (2) Veterans service organization.--The term ``veterans service organization'' means any organization recognized by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for the representation of veterans under section 5902 of such title.