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Computer Training Institute of Chicago, LLC v. United States Department of Veterans' Affairs

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 17, 2015

COMPUTER TRAINING INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, LLC., Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GEORGE M. MAROVICH, District Judge.

After the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs (the "Illinois VA") notified plaintiff that it was withdrawing approval of plaintiff's education programs for participation in the GI Bill, plaintiff filed suit against the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs ("USVA"). The USVA moves to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.

I. Background

Veterans are entitled to certain educational benefits under a law commonly known as the GI Bill, but veterans are entitled to benefits only if their "course is approved." 38 U.S.C. § 3672(a). Some courses of study, such as certain accredited college programs, are automatically deemed approved. See 38 U.S.C. § 3672(b)(2)(A)(i) ("the following programs are deemed to be approved for purposes of this chapter: (i) An accredited standard college degree program offered at a public or not-for-profit proprietary educational institution that is accredited by an agency or association recognized for that purpose by the Secretary of Education."). Other programs are considered for approval on a case-by-case basis, presumably to prevent the United States from paying for programs with no educational value.

With respect to the programs considered for approval on a case-by-case basis, Congress gave the approval authority to the states. Specifically, Congress asked each state "to create or designate a State department or agency as the State approving agency' for such State" (38 U.S.C. § 3671(a)) and then gave each State approving agency the authority to approve courses "in accordance with the provisions of this chapter and chapters 34 and 35 of this title and such other regulations and policies as the State approving agency may adopt." 38 U.S.C. § 3672(a). The State approving agencies are required to notify the USVA of the courses they have approved. 38 U.S.C. § 3672(a) ("Each State approving agency shall furnish the Secretary with a current list of educational institutions specifying courses which it has approved").

The State approval agencies also have the authority to disapprove previously-approved courses and are required to notify the USVA of such disapprovals, as well. 38 U.S.C. § 3679(a) ("Any course approved for the purpose of this chapter which fails to meet any of the requirements of this chapter shall be immediately disapproved by... the appropriate State approving agency"); 38 U.S.C. § 3672(a) ("Each State approving agency shall notify the Secretary of the disapproval of any course previously approved and shall set forth the reasons for such disapproval."). To that end, the USVA has promulgated regulations concerning the disapproval of courses by State approving agencies. The regulations state:

The State approving agency, after approving any course or licensing or certification test:
(1) May suspend approval of a course for new enrollments, or approval of a licensing or certification test, for a period not to exceed 60 days to allow the institution to correct any deficiencies, if the evidence of record establishes that the course or licensing or certification test fails to meet any of the requirements for approval.
(2) Will immediately disapprove the course or licensing or certification test, if any of the requirements for approval are not being met and the deficiency cannot be corrected within a period of 60 days.

38 C.F.R. § 21.4259(a)(1) & (2).

In considering this motion to dismiss, the Court takes as true the allegations in plaintiff's complaint and also considers the documents plaintiff attached to its complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).

Plaintiff Computer Training Institute of Chicago, LLC ("CTIC") is in the business of offering non-accredited, non-degree computer classes. On January 11, 2012, the "[US]VA, through the Illinois State Approving Agency for Veterans Education Benefits ("SAA"), approved CTIC's application to provide the following non-accredited, non-college degree programs to veterans: Adobe Desktop Publishing, CCNA, CCNP and Security Combo; CompTIA and MCTS Combo; Medical Billing and Coding; MS Office and Quick Books Combo; and Project Management and Six Sigma Combo." (Complt. ¶ 6).

Within eight months, the Illinois VA, which is the State approving agency ("SAA") for Illinois, disapproved CTIC's previously-approved programs. As CTIC alleges, "[o]n August 3, 2012, CTIC received a letter from the SAA, which informed CTIC that the SAA had suspended the approval of the Educational Programs for sixty days." (Complt. ¶ 9) (emphasis added). In the letter, the Illinois VA stated, among other things:

Pursuant to a complaint filed 8/1/12 and information received in this office 8/2/12, the approval of the following programs issued for facility code 2-5-0717-13 under U.S.Code, Title 38... will be suspended for 60 days effective 8/3/12:...
During this suspension period, currently enrolled veteran students can continue to be certified as enrolled; however, no new students can be certified. We await the requested information regarding all ...

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