House lawmakers recently introduced two bills to make technical corrections to the Isakson Roe and THRIVE Acts and extend certain COVID-related flexibilities for veterans education benefits.
The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement (Isakson Roe) Act and the Training in High-demand Roles to Improve Veteran Employment Act (THRIVE Act), which were enacted earlier this year and effective August 1, provide important protections for student veterans to help ensure that they can use their GI Bill benefits to complete a quality postsecondary education. However, certain provisions included in the legislation could create unintended consequences for veterans and institutions.
The two proposed House bills would address many of those areas of concern. The Student Veteran COVID-19 Protection Act, H.R. 5509, and the Responsible Education Mitigating Options and Technical Extensions (REMOTE) Act, H.R. 5545, would both:
- Extend certain COVID-related flexibilities granted to the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and set to expire this December until June 2022. Without this extension, veterans could see their benefits reduced or cut off if their campus needs to move instruction online.
- Make the VA's incentive compensation provision parallel to the incentive compensation provision in the Higher Education Act (HEA) by adding the exception that permits recruiting of foreign students in foreign countries.
- Require the VA and the State Approving Agencies to interpret the VA's incentive compensation provision consistent with the Education Department's interpretation.
- Allow the VA to waive the second certification requirement for institutions with a flat rate tuition and fee structure.
- Allow institutions to satisfy Isakson Roe section 1018's consumer information requirements by using the Education Department's "College Financing Plan" template.
The Student Veteran COVID-19 Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL), includes language to expand the VA's "rounding out" policy, which helps veterans receive full time benefits during the last term of their education program. The measure would also require the proposed changes be paid for by offsetting funds.
In contrast, the REMOTE Act, introduced by Reps. David Trone (D-MD), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Mike Levin (D-CA), would pay for the measure using emergency spending.
AACRAO joined the broader higher education community in letters to Rep. Bost and Reps. Trone, Takano, and Levin, to express strong support of both bills.
"We stand ready to work with you and your colleagues to ensure that legislation addressing these issues is passed by Congress and enacted into law as quickly as possible," the letters state.
"These and other technical corrections address the implementation concerns raised by our college and universities while maintaining important protections for veterans," the groups added.