Senate Passes Bipartisan Tester GI Bill Fix for Student Veterans Impacted by COVID-19 Outbreak

Ranking Member: “we’ve got to ensure that our student veterans don’t fall behind”

The U.S. Senate passed bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, that will allow student veterans to continue receiving certain education and training benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that would be reduced or halted due to programs unable to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” said Ranking Member Tester. “This legislative solution does just that—it builds on our recent bipartisan effort to provide veterans relying on their education benefits with the financial assistance they’ve earned, especially when their lives have been interrupted by the national health emergency. I urge President Trump to sign our commonsense solution quickly into law, to support veterans working towards an education during this unprecedented time.”

Montana State University (MSU) is one of the many schools across the country that provides employment opportunities to eligible student veterans in the work-study program. Student veterans at MSU applauded the passage of Tester’s bill:

“I use the pay from my work-study position to supplement the money from the GI Bill where it falls short,” said student Harley Harrison. “Due to social changes surrounding COVID-19, it’s been a bit tighter for me since I can’t log the hours I used to while working. I appreciate Senator Tester for these changes, and I look forward to getting back into the swing of things. And I thank Director Joseph Schumacher of Veteran Services for his help, and for carrying the weight of the entire veteran student body almost solely on his shoulders.”

“When I arrived in Bozeman, after separating from the Air Force in December 2017, I was looking for employment to supplement my income while attending MSU,” said student Nathan Kuehl. “I found a position working at the veteran support center on campus which helped me work on my administrative skills, and I have actively worked in this position from 2017 up until the current pandemic. While I do have my GI Bill entitlement to lean on, I worked to supplement this income through the GI Bill work-study program. This bill will provide the supplemental income I need to get through these trying times.”

The Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 will make certain student veterans on the GI Bill can continue to receive housing and work payments as classes are disrupted. This legislation provides many benefits, including:

  • Allows student veterans that are in work-study programs to continue to receive payments during this time even if they are unable to work due to COVID-19.
  • Makes certain veterans can receive additional housing allowance payments if their institution closes due to COVID-19.
  • Allows student veterans to have their education entitlements restored or extended if campuses are closed due to COVID-19.

This legislation was spearheaded by leaders from both the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees. The U.S. House of Representatives passed this legislation on March 31. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk for signature.

Tester has been a champion for providing student veterans with the financial assistance they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, he teamed up with Chairman Moran to introduce a bipartisan, legislative fix to allow veterans on the GI Bill to continue receiving full benefits as universities moved to an online curriculum to prevent the spread of the virus. President Trump signed this bill into law on March 21, 2020.