Using Common Sense on VA Rules

It seems obvious that the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs needs to have in place — and enforce — a strong code of ethics. Ask any military veteran victimized by “wait-list” schemes at some VA hospitals.

But should a VA doctor be told he cannot help educate budding health care professionals at a for-profit college solely because that institution has some students whose tuition is covered by the GI bill? That is ridiculous. But as matters stand, it’s the law.

After scandals half a century ago involving for-profit colleges and universities, the VA put in place a rule, based on a federal ethics law, that no employee could receive money in any way, whether in the form of salary or gifts, from a for-profit institution of higher learning in which veterans are enrolled and using GI Bill benefits.

The measure was intended to prevent VA employees from steering veterans to colleges and universities and receiving payments in return.

VA officials had planned to scrap the rule entirely. Unfavorable backlash from the public forced them to pull back on that plan.

Good. But the officials, who cited a case similar to the one involving a VA doctor mentioned above, have a point.

Surely the rule can be amended to allow VA employees who have no influence whatsoever on where veterans choose to use GI Bill benefits to teach as adjunct professors at for-profit colleges and universities. Or are we so tied up in bureaucratic red tape that we are incapable of using our common sense?

And while we’re at it, why is the existing ban only on for-profit colleges and universities? Why are public institutions exempted? That, too, makes no sense.

It is not surprising, however. This is the federal government we are talking about, after all.

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