Stars and Stripes: New law restores GI Bill benefits to veterans affected by pandemic

by Nikki Wentling

WASHINGTON – A new law aims to minimize the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on student veterans whose classes were disrupted.

President Donald Trump signed the Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 late Tuesday after it received broad support in the House and Senate. The bill will restore GI Bill benefits to veterans whose campuses closed or who were forced to withdraw from classes because of the virus.

The legislation also requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue payments to students in work-study programs who are unable to go to their jobs because of the virus.

“As the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic forces more schools and programs to shut their doors, we’ve got to ensure that our student veterans don’t fall behind,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.

The legislation builds on another emergency fix – approved in mid-March – that allowed student veterans to receive their full monthly housing allowances, even as colleges went online-only in response to the pandemic. Typically, those payments are lower for veterans who do online coursework, rather than attending physical campuses.

Congress has tried to respond to the needs of student veterans as college campuses across the country closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Student Veterans of America, which has chapters at colleges nationwide, conducted a survey near the end of March that showed most student veterans were concerned about the virus negatively affecting their educational goals.

Veterans that completed the survey also worried about receiving their GI Bill benefits, and they were concerned about their ability to earn a paycheck during the pandemic.

“With so much uncertainty about what lies ahead, we owe it to our veterans to ensure that the benefits they rely on will continue to be there for them, even in the most extraordinary times,” said Rep Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said Wednesday.