Congress Extends Student Veteran Benefits To Accommodate COVID-Related Closures Through 2021

Student veterans no longer have to worry about losing their investment in work study programs that have been closed due to COVID.

Congress extended financial protections for those veterans as part of a larger bi-partisan budget deal signed into law on Sept 30. The measure extends GI Bill protections back a full year to December 2021, at which time it will need to be extended again if COVID-related cancellations persist.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said this measure will help online classes and work-study programs “seamlessly continue into the next fiscal year to prevent disrupting veterans’ lives, especially during this global pandemic.”

COVID precautions have prompted in-person classes to be replaced with online alternatives.
Source: Pexels
COVID precautions have prompted in-person classes to be replaced with online alternatives, which were previously not covered under student veteran educational benefits.

According to the Military Times, the protections allow student veterans to receive full housing stipends even when enrolled in classes hosted online, and extends coverage of work-study programs that may be experiencing similar disruptions.

Student veterans who lose their benefits may miss out on an education.
Source: Pexels
Student veterans who lose their benefits may miss out on an education.

“Extending COVID-19 protections and maintaining stability for housing allowances are the top concerns chapter leaders have shared with us over recent months,” said Lauren Augustine, vice president of government affairs at Student Veterans of America.

“We’re thankful that leaders in both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees acted to ensure their concerns were addressed, leaving enough time to properly plan for the upcoming semester.”

COVID precautions have led to online-only courses, while others have been cancelled.
Source: Pexels
COVID precautions have led to online-only courses, while others have been cancelled.

Previous stipulations in the GI Bill benefits fine print prohibited housing stipends for student veterans enrolled in online-only classes. Where work-study programs were sidelined, students enrolled in those would have also seen their benefit payments cut off.

Almost one million student veterans drew on education benefits in 2019.

Congress has approved an extension of student veteran benefits until December 2021.
Source: Pexels
Congress has approved an extension of student veteran benefits until December 2021.

“In light of the current emergency, students’ GI Bill housing payments will continue even if colleges fully close down,” the Military Times reports. “And veterans could see any of this semester’s lost entitlements restored if their institution closes down or if they are forced to withdraw from school for coronavirus-related issues.”

The extension was tucked into a stopgap spending measure passed to fund the Department of Defense and other federal agencies through Dec. 11, 2020, and avoid a government shutdown.

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.

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