Members of Congress are pushing Pentagon leaders to publicize complaints from troops and military family members about predatory college practices that could upset their education goals.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and military personnel officials, the group of lawmakers — Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; and Tim Kaine, D-Va.; and Rep. Donald Davis, D-N.C. — are asking for an update on the department’s Postsecondary Education Complaint System, and reasons why information from the database has not been made widely available for almost a decade.

“Because the DOD has stopped releasing summary reports, it is unclear how many complaints have been filed in recent years, let alone any critical information about what problems service members and their spouses might be facing and at which schools or institutions,” they wrote.

“Accurate data and information is needed to fully understand the problems service members, veterans, and their families are facing in the Tuition Assistance and My Career Advancement Account Scholarship programs.”

The complaint system was launched in 2014 as a way to track military students’ problems with using their education benefits, with an eye towards “the prevention of abusive and deceptive recruiting practices.”

Department officials reported 628 complaints through the PECS in the first two years of operations, and detailed the types of issues facing students in annual reports in fiscal 2014 and 2015. About 40% of the complaints were related to tuition payment or collection issues.

But the lawmakers said that public transparency stopped in 2016, to the detriment of troops and advocates. They argued the annual reports should restart “in order to safeguard the hard-earned military education benefits of our service members and their families.”

According to department statistics, about 300,000 service members receive some form of military tuition assistance annually. In fiscal 2022, total spending on those programs topped $644 million.

Defense Department officials did not provide an immediate response to the lawmakers’ requests.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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