Pandemic Assistance for Student Veterans Act Introduced
Today, Reps. Cunningham (D-SC), Levin (D-CA), and Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced the Pandemic Assistance for Student Veterans Act, the third major piece of legislation aimed at easing the uncertainty COVID-19 has created for student veterans, service members, their families, and survivors using VA educational benefits.
Previous legislation, PL 116-128 and PL 116-140, addressed some of the most immediate needs of students in the wake of sweeping changes to our nation in response to COVID-19, chiefly the swift and unexpected shift from in-resident to online learning across all of higher education. While these laws addressed major issues related to housing rates and emergency school closures, SVA continued to hear about additional lapses between how VA education benefits are administered and how students are now required to access higher education.
The Pandemic Assistance for Student Veterans Act continues to build on those efforts and is based directly on what student veterans have shared as frustrations or concerns over the last six months. We’ve provided a breakdown of the bill below. However, we know there is still more work to be done, especially as it relates to how COVID-19 is impacting things like access to childcare and employment opportunities.
We’re continuing to express the concerns and needs you share with us to Capitol Hill as larger, additional COVID-19 legislation is considered.
Pandemic Assistance for Student Veterans Act Overview:
- Allows VA to pay up to 4 weeks of education benefits, including housing, if a student is enrolled in a program that is cut short, delayed, relocated, or otherwise modified because of COVID-19 in a way that would normally reduce the total housing benefit or result in lost training time. These payments will not be charged against entitlement or the usual time cap.
- Simplifies the mitigating circumstance process for students who need to withdraw from school because of COVID-19.
- Precisely aligns benefit protections for Montgomery GI Bill and VR&E students with GI Bill students to December 2021. As a note, the current GI Bill benefit flexibility was extended to December 2021 in the Continuing Resolution signed by President Trump on October 1, 2020.
- Protects students in apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs who are furloughed or unable to work sufficient hours to maintain full benefits.
- Clarifies definitions and limitations within PL 116-140.