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Veterans have a host of different student programs available to them for free, or at minimal cost. This includes the GI Bill, which pays student tuition, and even one for trade certification. There are caps to these programs, of course. However, it is easy to obtain a degree and a certification for little to no money spent by the veteran. These are phenomenal programs written into military contracts, which not only help recruit men and women to serve in the US military, but help them adapt to the civilian workforce once they are discharged. Children and spouses are also able to have some of these benefits transferred to them. However, some congressional members say that is not enough, and have introduced yet another program to alleviate any sort of educational and financial barrier for some veterans. The program would cost taxpayers even more on veteran education—which is already rife with fraud, waste, and abuse.
Bipartisan legislation named Federally Requiring Earned Education-Debt Discharges for Veterans Act, or FREED Vets Act, was introduced in the House recently, which would automatically forgive any student debt acquired by 100% disabled veterans. Previously, these approximately 42,000 eligible veterans were forced to apply via paperwork to obtain the forgiveness. For unknown reasons, only about 20% of them applied for the program, introduced in 2018.
In February of 2019, auditors estimated that $585 million in improper payments were spent via GI Bill benefits, as over 11,000 veterans were victims of predatory colleges. In 5 years the inspector general says that cost will balloon to $2.3 billion. These college programs do not reach VA standards, yet taxpayers are still footing the bill to pay for them. To be sure, this problem will be exacerbated with the introduction of student debt forgiveness—especially when it is automatically handed out.
As a disabled veteran, I am very aware of the hardships that others face when released back to the civilian job market. I also have a parent who is a former U.S. marine (I know, I know, once a marine always a marine) and 100% disabled. Via the GI Bill, he was able to pass on the educational assistance he earned to his dependents. That is a wonderful gift, which some of my younger siblings took advantage of.
Unfortunately, this new program would allow automatic dependent student debt forgiveness and further already discussed fraud issues. As one could imagine, the problem would intensify greatly, and add to our already disgustingly large national debt.
Furthermore, although the children and spouses of veterans also suffer some hardships from being a part of the military and then veteran-dependent lifestyle, they have not been privy to all of the sacrifice that was made to acquire the benefits. This means that they cannot be fully aware of the value of these educational benefits, making them more likely to be careless with them. This goes for any student debt forgiveness public program—which I am against for all the same reasons.
Veterans, and especially 100% disabled veterans, deserve our help and support. But the current education benefits system already goes to pretty great lengths to ensure job marketability for them and their dependents, as well as assists in recruiting young able-bodied Americans to serve.
The fraud, waste, and abuse needs to be stomped out before we add billions of wasted taxpayer money to the nation’s crippling financial debt, because it then affects everyone.