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Legislative Report - 2.16.2013

On February 11, 2013, the National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA) held its Mid-Winter Training & Business Meeting.  NASAA facilitates the efforts of the state approving agencies (SAAs) to promote and safeguard quality education and training programs for all veterans and other eligible persons.  SAAs are established on a state-by-state basis to approve programs of education within each state and their primary responsibility and focus is the review, evaluation, and approval of quality programs of education and training under state and federal criteria.

A panel discussion entitled: Challenges and Opportunities: The GI Bill included representatives from the American Legion, VA, NASAA, National Association of Veteran's Program Administrators (NAVPA), StudentVeterans of America (SVA), and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW).  The panel discussion focused primarily on implementation efforts at the VA of the Principles of Excellence established by Executive Order 13607 and H.R. 4057, the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-249).

Regarding the Principles, the VA reported that the complaint system is currently under Congressional review per the required 10-day notification and should be published for comment in the Federal Register in the coming days. Additionally, the working group (the VA and the Departments of Education and Defense) is close to finalizing recommendations for appropriate outcomes measures for military and veteran students, and will soon share with veteran service organizations (VSOs) and higher education associations for comment.  

In keeping with the 90-day reporting requirements included in P.L. 122-249, the VA has established a team, including representatives from NASAA, to oversee implementation and assist with VA-compliance.
     
Under Secretary Hickey began her remarks by emphasizing that the VA has a different perspective than ED on student veteran outcomes; the VA is concerned with “attainment” versus ED’s focus on “graduation.”  There was a great deal of attention to the claims processing and procedures for both education and health benefits, likely in response to the well-documented VA backlog.  

Shifting to the Principles, according to Under Secretary Hickey, 6,213 of the 9,437 GI Bill approved schools have agreed to the Principles.  The VA continues its efforts to encourage and request that schools sign a notice of intent to comply with the Principles; in fact Under Secretary Hickey recently sent a letter to all eligible schools encouraging compliance.  Additionally, the Under Secretary confirmed that: the complaint process will hit a milestone in mid-February, with an expected launch in May 2013; the outcome measures would be completed in one-two months with a focus on attainment not graduation; a prototype of the comparison tool will be released August 2013; and the “GI Bill” trademark registration was completed in mid-October.  

Finally, Under Secretary Hickey emphasized that SAAs, similar to institutions of higher education, must be responsible stewards of the Post-9/11 GI Bill to ensure that it will continue to provide a higher education to the millions of service members, veterans, and their families for years to come.