How to Identify GI Bill Fraud


The US government offers incentives and benefits for veterans who have served their country. Many of these benefits, including those under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, are tied to higher education and the costs associated with pursuing a degree. These benefits are designed to help veterans continue to advance themselves in their communities and beyond once they return from active duty service.

GI Bill fraud is unfortunately common. Under GI Bill fraud, institutions or administrators may seek to wrongfully claim benefits earmarked for helping veterans access educational opportunities. The submission of false claims under the Post-9/11 GI Bill is an example of education fraud and is punishable under federal law. Wrongful submission of claims for benefits may result in hefty fines and sanctions levied against an institution or individual.

If you have information about GI Bill fraud, do not wait to speak up. Your honesty can lead to you receiving whistleblower protections and a financial reward from the US government. You can also help preserve and protect opportunities available for veterans, as well as those who benefit from the GI Bill and other assistance programs. The law firm of Tycko & Zavareei LLP is available to help counsel whistleblowers through the process of identifying and reporting GI Bill fraud while protecting your professional reputation and legal rights along the way.

Education Benefits for Veterans Under the GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a US Department of Veterans Affairs program that supports veterans who seek post-secondary education after their military service. Many schools, colleges, and universities are eligible for VA support through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The associated education benefits can help cover the cost of tuition, housing, books, and more.

You may be able to receive post-9/11 GI Bill benefits if you:

  • Served at least 90 days on active duty (consecutive or non-consecutive) from September 11, 2001 onwards
  • Received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged after any amount of service
  • Served for at least 30 continuous days (all at once, without a break in service) on or after September 11, 2001, before being honorably discharged with a service-connected disability
  • Are a dependent child using benefits transferred by a qualifying Veteran or current service member

Some of the benefits provided by the post-9/11 GI Bill include:

  • The full cost of tuition and fees for state-funded schools
  • Financial aid to attend a private or foreign school or university
  • Help with housing costs for students enrolled at least half the time
  • A stipend for books and supplies
  • A one-time payment to move from qualifying rural areas (counties with six or fewer people per square mile) to attend school

School Requirements for Education Benefits

Because of the structure of the GI Bill, only certain schools and institutions qualify for the VA program. To qualify as an approved education institution and be eligible to receive GI Bill benefits, schools, and training programs must meet several requirements known as “Principles of Excellence.” Schools that accept Post 9/11 GI Bill funding without adhering to these principles are subject to forfeit of benefits, as well as prosecution under the False Claims Act and other anti-fraud laws.

To qualify, an educational institution must:

  • Provide a written, personalized summary of the total cost of your educational program. The summary must include the costs that are covered by your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, as well as any additional financial aid for which you may qualify. Your expected student loan debt after you graduate (if applicable) must be estimated on the summary, as well as any additional information to help you compare aid packages between schools and programs.
  • Offer enrollees an educational plan with a timeline showing how and when any graduation requirements can be fulfilled
  • Offer access to disability counseling, if applicable
  • Assign a point of contact who will be available for ongoing academic and financial advice
  • Allow for leaves of absence, no matter how long, to fulfill service obligations for active-duty service members as well as Reservists
  • Offer accredited programs and classes
  • Offer refund and financial aid policies in accordance with Title IV rules

Exceptions to the Principles of Excellence guidelines include:

  • Schools that do not charge tuition and fees
  • Some foreign schools
  • High schools
  • On-the-job training and apprenticeship programs
  • Residency and internship programs

While the Post-9/11 GI Bill may seem like a discounted rate for veterans, educational institutions are under an obligation to charge the same tuition rate to veteran and non-veteran students under the 85-15 rule. This rule also states that no more than 85% of the students enrolled in an approved course are funded by the VA. While this may seem limiting, the 85-15 rule is in place to ensure that no institution attempts to take advantage of post-9/11 GI Bill benefits by charging veterans higher tuition rates, or by creating separate classes simply to fill quotas for financial benefits. School Certifying Officials, also known as SCOs, are in charge of ensuring that their respective educational institution stays in compliance with VA rules, as well as verifying attendance, enrollment, and completion records for veterans.

Education Fraud and False Claims Act Violations Under the GI Bill

Schools that fail to adhere to all of the above requirements may be held liable for fraud under the False Claims Act. Likewise, School Certifying Officials, or SCOs, who falsely certify that their institution meets the aforementioned Principles of Excellence and other requirements may be committing Post-9/11 GI Bill fraud. Additionally, the offering or payment of kickbacks, commissions, or recruiting bonuses to entice enrollees under the Post-9/11 GI Bill is illegal.

The False Claims Act is the federal government’s main method for prosecuting fraud and fighting corruption. Under the False Claims Act, each instance of fraud is subject to financial penalties, as well as up to treble damages suffered by the government. The False Claims Act is an area of qui tam law, meaning that average people can act as whistleblowers and bring the case on behalf of the government. Whistleblowers (also known as relators) are eligible for anywhere from 15 to 30% of the government’s total recovery after a successful case.

Examples of Recent GI Bill Fraud Cases

Just in 2022, the government recovered over $100 million in losses stolen from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The following are recent examples of recent GI Bill fraud cases:

  • ELPSS Career Institute LLC: This career school in Killeen, Texas allegedly falsely claimed that the school had been in operation for more than two years. In February 2023, the school was ordered to pay more than $9 million in damages.
  • Pinellas Corporation: This for-profit school based in Virginia allegedly violated the False Claims Act by offering bonuses to recruiters for enrolling students who were eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The school and its owner agreed to settle the case for $450,000 in February 2023.

How to Report GI Bill Fraud

To report GI Bill fraud, contact a qualified qui tam attorney at once. They will be able to help you understand what kinds of evidence you will need to build your case, as well as what to share with federal investigators.

When reporting fraud, time is of the essence. Once a tip has already been reported by another source, it becomes ineligible for a whistleblower reward. For this reason, as well to avoid implicating yourself in a crime, it is imperative to speak with an education fraud lawyer as soon as possible once you believe you have a reasonable suspicion of fraud.

Reasons to Report GI Bill Fraud

Reporting GI Bill fraud protects the veterans and active duty service members who are the deserving and appropriate recipients of those benefits. The Post-9/11 GI Bill was passed to thank those who have given their time and dedication in service to our country. Anyone who seeks to take advantage of the program is draining the pool of resources at the taxpayer’s expense.

Doing the right thing is its own reward, but when it comes to being a whistleblower under the False Claims Act, other incentives are available. Whistleblowers may be able to receive thousands from the government’s recovery in the event of a successful case. If you work for the institution that you are reporting for fraud, you may also qualify for protection against retaliation. Finally, reporting can be done anonymously.

If you need help becoming a GI Bill fraud whistleblower, contact the law office of Tycko & Zavareei LLP today. A consultation is complimentary and confidential.




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