President Signs Legislation Protecting Veterans GI Bill Benefits During Coronavirus Crisis
March 23, 2020

Update:  The House approved S. 3503 on March 19, sending the bill to President Trump. The president signed the bill March 21.


From March 18: Senate Approves Legislation Protecting Veterans GI Bill Benefits During Coronavirus Crisis; ACE, Higher Ed Groups Ask House to Follow Suit

ACE and more than 60 other higher education groups asked the House to move swiftly to approve a bill passed by the Senate Monday night that ensures veterans can continue to receive their GI bill benefits in situations where campuses are forced to move courses online due to COVID-19.

The bill, S. 3503, would grant the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the authority to continue to provide VA educational assistance to veterans when an approved program of education at a college or university is converted to an online program due to an emergency or health-related situation. This authority would be available immediately and would extend through Dec. 21, 2020.

The letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) expresses strong support for the bipartisan legislation, which was passed by unanimous consent, and urges the House to quickly call up and pass the Senate measure.

“In light of coronavirus challenges, many campuses are working quickly to stand up online classroom instruction as a way to protect students and campus communities and limit contagion,” the letter states. “However, moving programs of education online has the potential to significantly and negatively impact the ability of veterans to receive GI bill benefits. As just one example, under current Post-9/11 GI Bill rules, student veterans taking courses online typically receive only half the housing allowance of their on-campus peers.”

The letter adds that because most veteran students and their families have already made housing arrangements, including signing leases for the current semester or term, a drastic cut in their living expenses would be a considerable hardship during these already difficult times. 

Last week, ACE sent two letters on behalf of other higher education associations supporting Congressional efforts to address this issue: one to the sponsors of the Senate measure, and another to the author of a nearly identical House proposal (H.R. 6194) thanking them for their efforts and indicating our strong support.