The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have passed legislation to clarify that student veterans can keep receiving their GI Bill benefits if their academic programs remain online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congress approved an emergency solution Thursday, March 19, that would allow students to retain the same amount benefits they received when they started the semester if they have to transition from in-class to online learning. It gives the Secretary of Veterans Affairs broad authority to ensure GI Bill benefits are distributed without interruption during national emergencies.
“Just over a week ago, we learned that veterans and other students could lose their GI Bill benefits or have them significantly reduced because of actions their school takes to combat the coronavirus,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who introduced the House version of the bill.
GI Bill recipients rely on monthly stipends from the VA to pay for housing, food and other bills. Those payments are higher for students who attend physical classes as opposed to online coursework.
As classes began to move online the last few weeks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of student veterans faced the possibility of losing their benefits or seeing drastic cuts to their monthly checks.
“Hundreds of thousands of veterans and military families rely on the GI Bill to support themselves while they are in school, and I am heartened that Congress was able to come together so quickly to assure them that we’ve got their backs throughout this crisis,” Roe said.
Student Veterans of America, which has hundreds of chapters at colleges nationwide, alerted lawmakers to the problem last week. The group warned that GI Bill recipients were at risk of losing their homes if their benefits stopped or substantially decreased.
“Today, we took action to make sure that won’t happen. I am grateful to the Student Veterans of America who first identified this problem and the numerous veterans service organizations who worked with me and my colleagues … to make it right,” Roe said.
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