House Bills Would Extend COVID Flexibilities for Veterans Education Benefits, Fine-Tune Other Vets Bills
October 25, 2021

Two bills to extend COVID-related flexibilities for veterans education benefits and to make technical corrections to recent veterans legislation have been introduced in the House.

The bills would extend flexibilities granted last year to the secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure that veterans’ benefits are not disrupted should a campus need to move instruction online.

Among the other provisions, the bills address concerns with the recent Training in High-Demand Roles to Improve Veteran Employment (THRIVE) Act to ensure that institutions can continue to use incentive compensation to recruit foreign students by making the provision parallel with a similar provision in the Higher Education Act.

In addition, the bills would allow the VA to waive the requirement of a “second certification” of benefits for campuses with a flat tuition and fee structure. While many campuses re-certify benefits after the end of the add/drop period, campuses that charge flat tuition and fees find this second certification unnecessary because the charges are unlikely to change.

The primary difference between the two bills is that Republican bill includes an offset for the costs of these changes, while the Democrats’ proposal relies instead on emergency spending.

In addition, the Republican package includes important changes to VA’s “rounding out” rule, which allows veterans to take additional coursework not required for their degree during their last term so they can maintain full-time education benefit levels. Current VA policy is unnecessarily restrictive in the types of additional coursework that can be added to round out a veteran’s schedule. The GOP bill would fix that problem, allowing more veterans to preserve their benefits during their last term.

Other legislation that includes a fix for the rounding-out issue passed the House earlier this year but has stalled in the Senate.

ACE sent letters to the authors of both bills this week (click here and here), thanking them for their work and urging them to quickly move legislation through Congress.

These issues are likely to be on the agenda at a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 27.