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Congressman Dan Kildee Announces Assistance for Student Veterans During Coronavirus Outbreak

March 25, 2020
Press Release

Congress Acts to Support Student Veterans, Access Their Hard-Earned Benefits

Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus, announced assistance for student veterans after recent action he supported in the U.S. House of Representatives. The House passed S. 3503, authorizing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to continue to provide educational benefits for postsecondary programs that have been converted to online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

To address this issue, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, and the President signed into law a bill that would allow the VA, to provide the same level of educational assistance to student veterans, even if their educational program shifts to online learning due to an emergency situation, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

“At the federal level, I am doing everything I can to support families during the coronavirus pandemic, including helping veterans retain their hard-earned benefits,” Congressman Kildee said. “Our men and women in uniform have made immense sacrifices to our country and we must ensure that they don’t lose their educational benefits because of the coronavirus. Like all students, we must give our student veterans increased flexibility during this time of need so that they do not lose their education benefits.”

To promote public health and safety during the coronavirus outbreak, many colleges and universities are shifting their instruction to online learning. While this action helps to protect public health, it poses challenges for many students and specifically jeopardizes student veterans’ GI Bill education benefits. The VA provides student veterans taking in-person courses larger monthly housing allowances than student veterans taking online courses. Additionally, the VA separately approves institutions of higher education for online and in-person instruction. Therefore, it is possible that an institution of higher education is approved by the VA for in-person instruction, but not for online learning. 

This creates two problems for student veterans. First, if a student veteran is enrolled in an approved educational program that abruptly switches to unapproved online learning, student veterans would be at risk of losing their benefits. Second, for those enrolled in an in-person program that the VA also approved for online instruction, their benefits would remain the same for the rest of the semester despite shifting to online learning. However, because student veterans are provided a smaller housing allowance for online instruction, their housing benefits would decline in future semesters if the program remains virtual. 

Previously, Congressman Kildee also introduced the Keep Student Veterans in Their Homes Act, that would give a student veteran up to four months to enroll in a new postsecondary program if their school abruptly closes. This bill became law as partHarry W. Colmery Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2017.

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