Hundreds of thousands of student veterans and their families whose schools have either closed or moved entirely online amid the COVID-19 pandemic won’t have to worry about losing their GI Bill benefits or having their housing allowance cut in half.
Congress moved quickly to fix a problem highlighted last week by a coalition of veterans’ organizations. On March 11, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn), who is the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced a bill to protect GI Bill recipients from being negatively impacted by school closures or other changes as a result of COVID-19.
The Senate quickly passed its version of the legislation, which the House approved on Thursday. President Trump signed the bill on March 21.
“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,” Roe said in a statement. “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, Chairman Mark Takano, Chairman Jerry Moran, and Ranking Member Jon Tester, to make it right. 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.”
Many schools nationwide closed temporarily to help halt the spread of the coronavirus, moving all classes online. That meant hundreds of student veterans and their families were in danger of losing their tuition benefits or having their monthly housing allowance reduced to match what distance learning students get under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The bill gives the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to waive the requirements in a national emergency.