Last week, Congress finalized a second GI bill fix to protect student veterans from losing their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) education benefits because of issues related to the coronavirus outbreak. President Trump signed the measure into law this week.
The Student Veterans Coronavirus Response Act, H.R. 6322, follows legislation last month designed to protect GI Bill and other U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-funded students from a reduction in their housing allowance as classes shifted online as a result of the pandemic. The first bill, S. 3503, grants the VA Secretary the authority to continue to provide VA educational assistance to veterans when an approved program of education at a college or university is converted to an online program due to an emergency or health-related situation. This authority extends through Dec. 21, 2020.
However, that legislation did not cover income lost from other sources, such as shuttered work study programs connected to the GI Bill. The latest measure—passed by the House earlier this month and by unanimous consent in the Senate last week—would keep those work study payments active through the remainder of the semester, even if students cannot reach their place of employment.
The Student Veterans Coronavirus Response Act would ensure that veterans can receive an additional monthly housing allowance payment if their institution closes due to COVID-19. Additionally, veterans would be able to have their education entitlements restored if their campus closes or the veteran needs to withdraw due to coronavirus-related issues.
Lawmakers hailed the passage as an important step in protecting veterans' financial future, reported the Military Times. White House officials have not said when the legislation may be signed into law, but also have not offered any objections to the proposal.
AACRAO strongly supports the Student Veterans Coronavirus Response Act. Ahead of the Senate vote, the association joined a letter to urge lawmakers to support its passage.
"As the extent of the crisis began to spread last month across the country, Congress acted swiftly to ensure that student veterans did not lose access to their GI Bill benefits and housing allowances as their institutions moved coursework online. As the pandemic continues to impact the ways in which student veterans work and learn, additional flexibility will continue to ensure our military-connected students have their financial needs met and can continue with their studies," the letter states.
"These and other changes will help ensure that veterans' education benefits are not negatively impacted by campus programming changes and/or closures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic that are beyond their control."
The Military Times