LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today, along with seven states, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”), urging the Secretary to use his authority to restore educational and vocational rehabilitation benefits to thousands of veterans victimized by predatory practices carried out by for-profit schools such as Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (“Corinthian”). The letter also asks VA Secretary Robert McDonald to take steps to ensure that veterans are given full and accurate information about the risks associated with using their benefits at certain schools.
“We honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans by ensuring that when they return home, they have access to benefits that will help them transition to civilian employment and build lives for themselves and their families,” stated Attorney General Harris in the letter.
“Rather than being honored, the veterans who enrolled in Corinthian schools were cheated out of these benefits. ED has acted to remedy the harms suffered by student borrowers who were defrauded by Corinthian and other unscrupulous institutions—we respectfully urge you to act in harmony with your sister agencies and offer similar relief to student veterans who were harmed by precisely the same misconduct,” the Attorney General added.
The letter specifically calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs to do three things:
1. Restore Benefits to Veterans Who Attended Institutions that Utilized Erroneous, Deceptive, or Misleading Advertising, Sales, or Enrollment Practices
The letter urges the VA to implement processes to restore G.I. Bill and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (“VR&E”) benefits to student veterans who used those benefits at schools found to have engaged in misleading and deceptive behavior. This relief should be provided when a regulatory or enforcement action is taken by the U.S. Department of Education, a State Approving Agency, or a State Attorney General after a showing of misconduct, or when a court enters a judgment against a school, or upon application by a veteran or group of veterans alleging that an educational program or college has been deceptive or misleading.
2. Ensure that Veterans Have Full and Accurate Information
The letter urges the VA to fully educate veterans about their options and risks when choosing a school. The VA should inform student veterans about the potential consequences of utilizing educational benefits at schools that have been subject to investigations or lawsuits. Early warnings and information will help veterans make informed choices.
3. Support the Efforts of State Approving Agencies and Attorneys General
Lastly, the signatories urge the VA to support states’ efforts to protect veterans from misconduct by for-profit institutions. Ensuring that the VA works collaboratively with and supports the efforts of the State Approving Agencies and Attorneys General in this context will help protect student veterans from future misconduct.
This letter is a continuation of Attorney General Harris’ efforts to protect and provide relief to students of for-profit schools. In 2013, Attorney General Harris filed a lawsuit against Corinthian for false advertising and deceptive marketing targeting vulnerable, low-income students and misrepresenting job placement rates to potential and current students, investors and accrediting agencies. Corinthian closed all of its California campuses on April 26, 2015. Attorney General Harris has since called for the U.S. Department of Education to relieve the student loan debt of thousands of students who attended Corinthian.
Attorney General Harris is committed to protecting veterans and the benefits they earned through their dedicated service to our country. Last year, an alarming number of “pension poaching” scams targeting senior veterans and their survivors were reported to the California Department of Justice’s Public Inquiry Unit. Attorney General Harris consequently issued a consumer alert urging veterans to be wary of such schemes.
In November 2015, Attorney General Harris announced a stipulated judgment which resolved allegations that JPMorgan Chase (Chase) committed credit card debt-collection abuses against tens of thousands of Californians. The Attorney General’s investigation and litigation further revealed that Chase violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the California Military and Veterans Code when it filed false declarations regarding military service and improperly obtained default judgments against servicemembers on active duty.
The letter can be viewed here: https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/va-multi-state-letter.pdf.