Helping Veterans Make Good Education Choices

by Michelle Massie
May 28, 2014

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report, VA Education Benefits: VA Should Strengthen Its Efforts to Help Veterans Make Informed Education Choices, which found that a significant portion of student veterans want better information to help them choose education programs, including data on post-graduation employment. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provided over $12 billion in benefits for veterans’ postsecondary education in 2013, according to the report. Since the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (Post-9/11 GI Bill) went into effect, the number of veterans receiving VA education benefits has almost doubled—to over 1 million in fiscal year 2013. 
Without information to guide students on figuring out how to use their benefits, this large federal investment may fail to help veterans gain the knowledge, skills and credentials they need for bright futures. 
When GAO surveyed a nationally representative sample of student veterans, about half said they wanted better information about job placement rates after graduation and future employment or job market potential. Ten percent said they got inaccurate information from schools about job placement rates. 
These survey results align with WDQC’s promotion of reporting that shows employment outcomes for all postsecondary programs.
Some states are already taking steps to help veterans get better information as they pursue further education. For example, the Texas Workforce Commission recently completed its employment tool for Veterans called Skills to Work. This tool aims to help student veterans to explore their career and educational goals by:
  • Translating a resume into specific civilian skill sets
  • Matching skills directly to thousands of online job postings
  • Creating a skills gap report to identify areas for further training
The federal government has also taken steps to protect the interests and investments of student veterans through an executive order issued in 2012 and a law passed  in January 2013. 
The executive order attempted to protect veteran and military students from inappropriate school behavior, as well as provide those students with handy information on their school choices. The law focused on improving transparency and outreach to veterans and had elements similar to the executive order. For instance, it required VA to develop a comprehensive policy to include a public feedback system on schools and expand its outreach on its educational counseling service. The VA is still working to implement these requirements.