A legislative package introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers Monday would extend education benefits for student veterans and dependents by the length of time their school is closed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
It would also pay work-study students during the closure.
The Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 would build on S. 3503, which the president signed into law Saturday to restore GI Bill payments to student veterans whose classes transitioned online due to COVID-19.
This latest student veteran package would ensure veterans aren't charged for not completing their program or course because of COVID-19 closures and that their monthly housing allowance isn't reduced because their school moved to online teaching, among other things.
"As we respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we cannot forget about our student veterans," House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Mark Takano, D-California, said in a statement. "Under this bipartisan legislation, we can ensure no students have their housing cut off, lose their work study payment, exhaust their disaster housing stipend continuation payments, or lose their benefits due to a school closure from COVID-19."
He, along with ranking member Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, said their bill package would ensure student veterans and dependents won't lose their eligibility for next semester because classes were moved online and they won't be charged for a class they were unable to finish if their school or program closed due to an emergency
"Over the last two weeks, we worked hard to assure student veterans that the support they count on from the GI Bill to cover tuition and housing costs won't be taken away during the COVID-19 pandemic," Roe said. "Our bill would preserve work study, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and GI Bill benefits for students during emergency situations like the one we are currently experiencing."
If passed, student veterans enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs' work-study program would still be paid and the "use or lose" eligibility period for veterans and dependents would be extended by the length of time their school is closed.
The bill's protections also apply to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) veterans, granting them two more months of "subsistence allowance" in anticipation that COVID-19 might hinder their near-term employment prospects.
Veterans' resources and more information about what the House VA committee is doing can be found here.
-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DMillsGregg.