Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Straight talk from the VA blog: Who is wasting veterans’ educational benefits?

Journalists like to think they speak truth to power, but I don’t usually expect the government to try to do so — especially to financial power, and especially by name on both ends. Money talks, especially to members of Congress who can make life difficult for the bosses of outspoken government employees. So I was ...

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Journalists like to think they speak truth to power, but I don't usually expect the government to try to do so -- especially to financial power, and especially by name on both ends. Money talks, especially to members of Congress who can make life difficult for the bosses of outspoken government employees.

So I was surprised and pleased to see the VA's Alex Horton step up to the question of veterans being sucked into wasting their educational benefits. Here is some straight-up advice that he provided yesterday, where he called out Gibill.com by name:

Go to Google and search for "GI Bill schools." The first link you get isn't a page run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The first result is GIBill.com, and it uses the name of the most recognized public education program in existence to its financial benefit. It appears to be a legitimate site for information, but a cursory search of its privacy policy shows it is owned by an online marketing firm that, according to a major business publication, specializes in directing students to for-profit schools through its page. It's a questionable marketing strategy that seeks to legitimize a page that serves little purpose other than to funnel student Veterans and convince them their options for education are limited to their advertisers. There are 6,500 schools across the country that allow GI Bill benefits; only use VA's school locator to find qualifying programs. Avoid suspicious websites drowning in advertisements.

Journalists like to think they speak truth to power, but I don’t usually expect the government to try to do so — especially to financial power, and especially by name on both ends. Money talks, especially to members of Congress who can make life difficult for the bosses of outspoken government employees.

So I was surprised and pleased to see the VA’s Alex Horton step up to the question of veterans being sucked into wasting their educational benefits. Here is some straight-up advice that he provided yesterday, where he called out Gibill.com by name:

Go to Google and search for “GI Bill schools.” The first link you get isn’t a page run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The first result is GIBill.com, and it uses the name of the most recognized public education program in existence to its financial benefit. It appears to be a legitimate site for information, but a cursory search of its privacy policy shows it is owned by an online marketing firm that, according to a major business publication, specializes in directing students to for-profit schools through its page. It’s a questionable marketing strategy that seeks to legitimize a page that serves little purpose other than to funnel student Veterans and convince them their options for education are limited to their advertisers. There are 6,500 schools across the country that allow GI Bill benefits; only use VA’s school locator to find qualifying programs. Avoid suspicious websites drowning in advertisements.

This is the second day in a row that I’ve cited Alex Horton’s VA blog. I think that is a first for this blog. He must be doing something right. Whatever they are paying him, your tax dollars are being well spent in at least one corner of the government.  

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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