Midway through March, the coronavirus, COVID-19, began to wreck its path through the United States. The first domino in the mainstream world, the NBA, fell on March 11 when all of the sport’s games and operations were suspended indefinitely. The NCAA March Madness tournament would soon follow suit, setting off a chain reaction that now sees many aspects of our daily lives disrupted.
One such casualty of the current crisis is the closure of colleges and universities all over the world. While some schools have shifted to online learning through the end of the semester, others have shuttered altogether. This shift has left many veterans to wonder: will I still see my GI Bill benefits?
The GI Bill allows military veterans to obtain a post-secondary education while providing stipends for housing and living expenses. After concluding their service, veterans often find themselves in need of help making the next steps into civilian life. For many, this includes obtaining a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in order to increase career opportunity in the future.
But in the expensive economy in which we live, it’s often difficult to make ends meet while going to school and trying to work enough hours to pay all the bills. On top of this, many veterans are the sole breadwinners in their families; some have spouses or significant others who stay home and care for children, while others may be single or have a significant other with a disability. All of these variables make the GI Bill that much more valuable for our veterans — and that much more worth protection from unforeseen circumstances such as the coronavirus pandemic.
So when schools began to close and/or move their courses online, veterans began to worry. Would the shift to online learning eliminate the housing stipend? This would cause severe backlash with individuals missing their rent or mortgage payments. Suddenly, income is needed where there is not much replacement; many companies aren’t hiring right now, and even if they are, finding a schedule flexible enough to work with school, home care, and everything else can be difficult. And in some higher cost of living areas, making up the missing GI Bill benefits would be nearly impossible even with an additional job.
Fortunately, on March 21 President Trump signed into order law S. 3503, which enables the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue providing the same level of benefits for students receiving GI Bill stipends. This law comes after bipartisan support quickly pushed the bill through the Senate and the House, landing it on the President’s desk in timely fashion and allowing veterans to breathe a sigh of relief as the economy continues its uncertain charter.
“Today, military connected students are free from the burden of worry with their housing allowance and can concentrate on protecting their families and community,” said Tanya Ang, vice president of Veterans Education Success, in an article from Military Times.
Indeed, ensuring our veterans do not lose out on any of their benefits during unpredictable times such as these is vastly important. It’s encouraging to see our government acting swiftly to secure these benefits, and attention must be paid to ensure this is the procedure going forward when it comes to issues concerning veterans.