The USA Today Network previously reported that Veterans Education Success, an advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Georgia Veterans Service to investigate alleged abuses of the GI Bill program by House of Prayer.
The organization alleged the church preyed on enlisted soldiers by encouraging them to spend their GI Bill on an unaccredited seminary program with graduation requirements that frequently changed, delaying graduation.
“If they find out something is going on, they either suspend them or potentially strip them of access,” said William Hubbard, vice president for veterans and military policy for Veterans Education Success. “Suspension, in and of itself, is actually a pretty big step because that cuts them off from getting new enrollments. They definitely don’t take that decision lightly.”
Since Veterans Education Success’s report came out, the organization estimates more than $7 million dollars has gone to the schools in the form of the housing allowance and tuition fees, according to Hubbard. About half of that total amount, $3.5 million, has gone directly to the school.
Things that might lead to an SAA stripping access to GI Bill funding include fraud, committing a federal offense, or student complaints, Hubbard said.
“A lot of student complaints might trigger the state approving agency to go into that school and review their programs, look at their paperwork and do an on-site inspection,” he said. “If the findings are derogatory, then they could potentially make the choice to suspend or restrict access… It doesn’t surprise me at all that they eventually lost access, certainly based on the litany of issues at the school.”
When Veterans Education Success initially looked into the House of Prayer Christian Church two years ago, Hubbard said it received an alarming number of complaints.
“Most of the schools that we keep an eye on, we don’t typically refer to the FBI because most of the conduct is not necessarily criminal in nature,” he said. “You know – immoral, unethical, potentially fraudulent, but not necessarily beyond the scope of the VA. In this case, though, some of what we had been hearing definitely warranted a referral to the FBI because we’re talking mortgage fraud, potential human trafficking, and a lot of other things that are definitely beyond what VA would look at.”
Read the full story in the Augusta Chronicle here.