The Department of Veteran Affairs has recently released a new online GI Bill Comparison Tool and a College Navigator for student veterans. This tool is a new and efficient way for veterans to collect information on prospective schools including academic success, costs, graduation rates, loan default rates, average borrowing costs, whether the university has a veteran club or veteran liaison, and how many GI Bill beneficiaries are at that particular institution.
Both the GI Bill Comparison Tool and College Navigator collect the information from more than 17 online sources and three federal agencies to provide this key information to veterans. What this comparison tool lacks is the ability to track and display how many veterans are attending the university and their overall success rates. The information from this tool is mostly non-veteran student-related data. The number of attending GI Bill beneficiaries displayed is not an accurate identifier of how many veterans are actually attending the university. The Post-9/11 GI Bill can be transferred to spouses or dependent children and this number does nothing to differentiate whether a GI Bill beneficiary is a veteran, spouse, or dependent.
This number also does not reflect the number of veterans who are attending an educational institution that aren’t accessing GI Bill benefits due to ineligibility either from bad paper (a discharge that is anything below an Honorable Discharge), due to exhausting the 36-months of GI Bill benefits, or using other VA benefits such as Vocational Rehabilitation or Chapter 35: Dependents Educational Assistance Program to pay for school.
It is important for us to track all of our veterans attending educational institutions because this would enable peer-based organizations like ourselves to identify veterans who might need supportive services outside the educational institution they are attending. It would benefit the VA to know so they could identify if they need to increase their outreach capacity. Also, it would be good for veterans to know how many total veteran classmates/peers are attending their educational institution. These tools are steps in the right direction, but it still does not paint the whole picture of how many veterans are attending our educational institutions. Our recommendation would be for these tools to identify all veterans and not just those who are currently accessing GI Bill benefits.
Kevin Miller is a Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq. He graduated from Humboldt State University and works in our Institute for Veteran Policy as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer.