Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Aumua Amata (Western Samoa)
April 30, 2020
Washington, D.C.—This week, Congresswoman Aumua Amata is welcoming President Trump’s signing into law a bill she cosponsored helping student Veterans whose educations have been interrupted by the pandemic. The bipartisan Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, H.R. 6322, introduced in late March in the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is now law. This Act provides new assistance to student Veterans during and after the COVID-19 delay in their academic plans.
Pictured: Congresswoman Amata in Committee with Chairman Takano and Ranking Member Dr. Roe.
“I appreciate that this legislation gathered several of the ideas and proposals in our Committee and put them together in one bill that could be completed quickly,” said Aumua Amata, Vice Ranking Member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Thousands of Veterans are in educational programs, and their plans were interrupted. This new law will assure that they won’t lose eligibility or their place in a program while it is shut down, and that whatever support and benefits they had before through their program can be renewed.”
“Chairman Mark Takano and Ranking Member Dr. Phil Roe worked together to lead this in a bipartisan way for the needs of our student Veterans,” said Congresswoman Amata. “We want our student Veterans to be able to pick up their studies right where they left off.”
Student Veterans had their studies interrupted, and suddenly faced new costs and unexpected obstacles. Among the initial coronavirus relief, Congress passed a measure to preserve student veterans’ monthly housing allowance while their schools moving to online instruction. The Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 builds on that, and adds numerous issues that were brought to light. This list of solutions was endorsed and widely supported by Veterans Service Organizations.
File photo: Vice Ranking Member Amata at a 2019 Capitol event supporting Veterans with Chairman Takano (speaking), Ranking Member Dr. Roe, and other Committee leaders.
The new law provides:
- Work-Study During Emergencies: The VA will continue paying student veterans in work-study programs who lost their position on campus due to shutdowns.
- Expanded Protections for Student Veterans in Emergencies: VA can continue paying housing and allowances to student veterans for an extended time, expanding current policy to cover all emergency situations. This protection can be used once every 6 months (down from 12) and creates a new four-week uncharged period.
- Bridging Digital Divide: The interrupted term or semester of their education benefit will be restored to students who could not complete classes, so student veterans will continue to receive housing benefits through the end of this term and not have their GI Bill eligibility charged for any uncompleted class. This helps student veterans cover daily expenses and keep going without losing an entire semester of benefits.
- Ensuring Veterans Are Not Penalized in Emergency Circumstances: Stops the eligibility clock for student veterans and eligible dependents impacted by emergency school closures preserving eligibility.
- Extending Protections to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Veterans: Ensuring the same protections for VR&E program as other college and university students with protections for “hands-on” programs that could not transition to online learning. VA can pay housing and subsistence allowance through the end of a term, and veterans will not lose eligibility time. The addition of two months of subsistence allowance to veterans currently in the VR&E program to cover difficulty securing employment because of reduced jobs in the pandemic.