Last week, AACRAO joined 11 higher education associations in a letter to leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees in support of the Student Veteran Emergency Relief Act, H.R. 7939. The House approved the measure in September with strong bipartisan support. The groups now urge the committees to move the legislation through to final passage before the end of the year.
The Student Veteran Emergency Relief Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA), would provide permanent authority for the application of certain flexibilities granted to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of COVID-19, Congress passed several bills to address the effect of the pandemic on student veterans' education benefits and employment. However, these flexibilities expired on June 1, 2022. The proposed bill would allow the VA to extend those GI Bill flexibilities during any future emergency that is declared by the president, according to a press release.
In particular, the legislation would:
- authorize the VA to continue to provide educational assistance, including monthly housing stipends or subsistence allowances, for programs of education that have been converted to distance learning due to an emergency or health-related situation;
- ensure that an educational assistance payment will not be charged against any entitlement to educational assistance or counted against the aggregate period in situations where an individual was unable to complete a course or program due to an emergency situation;
- extend the time limitation for using educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill, Post-9/11 GI Bill, or vocational rehabilitation program when institutions are closed due to an emergency situation or executive order;
- authorize the payment of work-study allowances during emergency periods;
- ensure an educational assistance payment shall not be charged against an individual's entitlement if the individual was unable to complete a course or program due to the temporary closure of an educational institution or the temporary termination of a program by reason of an emergency situation; and
- adjust the administration of certain benefits for veterans participating in an apprenticeship or other on-job training.
Additionally, section 13 of the bill would provide a critical technical correction to provide relief to institutions with flat tuition and fee structures from unnecessary and burdensome enrollment verification processes.
"We appreciate Congress' continued efforts to make its intent clear and trust that these minor changes will ensure that the VA can now properly implement the law," the groups state in the letter.
The Student Veteran Emergency Relief Act contains "important provisions to help colleges and universities better serve their student veteran and military-connected populations," the letter adds. AACRAO and the other groups urge lawmakers to swiftly pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the year.
Letter in Support of the Student Veteran Emergency Relief Act
U.S. Representative Mike Levin’s Press Releasehttps://mikelevin.house.gov/media/press-releases/reps-mike-levin-and-nancy-mace-introduce-bipartisan-student-veteran-emergency-relief-act