A bill introduced Wednesday to the House of Representatives would give the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the flexibility to not reduce GI Bill benefits for student veterans, if their colleges or universities close or move entirely online due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“No student veteran, dependent or spouse should be worried about their GI Bill benefits being reduced or cut off because of actions their school is taking in response to COVID-19,” Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), sponsor of the emergency legislation, said in a statement.
According to Roe, a ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, GI Bill beneficiaries at schools that are closing or going online-only might risk receiving lower monthly housing payments or, in a worst-case scenario, having their degree program disapproved by the VA.
Under current Post-9/11 GI Bill regulations, student veterans who physically attend the majority of classes generally receive the same as the Defense Departments Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for service members with dependents in the E-5 classification. Those who who take exclusively online classes, however, receive only one-half of the national average of the BAH each month.
Moreover, an in-person training program that has been approved by the VA as eligible for GI Bill benefits might lose its eligibility if it were moved online. That means veteran students could have their tuition and housing allowances stripped, because the academic program they take is no longer VA-approved.