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GI Bill, Voc Rehab Subsistence Rates Get Fix For Forced Online Learning

GI Bill Voc Rehab Subsistence Rates

Veterans forced to attend college online in recent weeks will not be penalized by the online subsistence rate language of the Forever GI Bill three years ago.

President Donald Trump signed Senate Bill 3503 on Saturday. The bill “clarifies how the Department of Veterans Affairs should treat in-person courses of study that convert to distance learning formats due to health-related situations and other emergencies.”

The bill clarifies monthly housing stipends under Chapter 33 and Chapter 31 Voc Rehab subsistence payments, as well as other education programs.

This is a huge concern for veterans previously receiving the full amount of subsistence or stipend instead of the half-rate for online learning.

Thanks To SVA

Student Veterans of America (SVA) alerted Congress that existing GI Bill language could result in significant reductions in the amount veterans receive while being forced to study from home. Congress, in turn, developed and passed language to help (see bottom).

Basically, the bill says VA may pay veterans converted from in-person to distance learning at the in-person rate “without regard to such conversion” when the reason for the conversion is “an emergency or health-related situation” as determined by the Secretary.

According to Military.com:

The law had to be changed because previous regulations said that if a class meeting on campus was originally authorized for GI Bill payments and then was moved to online sessions, it would no longer be eligible for GI Bill reimbursement. This also affected the Monthly Housing Allowance for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the subsistence allowance for VRE.

Students would have been on the hook for thousands of dollars in GI Bill payments and seen their housing allowances terminated immediately if the law hadn’t been changed.

The swift action is aimed to protect veterans by clarifying that the VA Secretary may continue veterans at the in-person rate of monthly pay despite being converted to distance learning.

RELATED: Learn Strategies To Win Your Voc Rehab Benefits

Dollar Difference

The online rate is around $900 per month. Meanwhile, students studying in-person can receive between $1500 to $4000 per month depending on the relevant zip code.

Disabled veterans receiving subsistence payments without GI Bill entitlement receive a significantly lower monthly payment amount.

RELATED: FY 2020 Voc Rehab Subsistence Payments

Veterans who are now suddenly studying online instead of in-person would experience significant financial hardship in most instances given rent and other personal expenses would likely not change based on individual contractual terms.

What happens if this continues into the summer?

How Long It Lasts

The language in the bill states the adjustment is in effect from March 1, 2020, to December 21, 2020.

It is important to note the VA Secretary has discretion when considering when to allow payment using on-site rates instead of using distance learning rates. Hopefully, the Secretary will keep the change in place through the duration of the bill’s maximum allowable term.

That aside, it is difficult to say how colleges and universities will classify students in the coming semesters should distance learning continue.

Many universities use specific degree types to differentiate degrees such as Harvard University’s traditional brick and mortar programs versus their online degrees. For that reason, I suspect the in-person payment amount will continue at least until the end of December.

But, the decision is obviously up to the VA Secretary. Again, the language of the bill to pay attention to is the use of the word “may” rather than “shall.”

For those veterans contemplating next steps, I would hope for the best but plan for the worst. Right now, there appears to be a sentiment in support of actions like this.

However, down the road, if this situation gets worse, social betterment programs related to education could see benefits amounts reduced.

S. 3503 Bill Language

The operative language of the bill is below for interested readers:

(a) In General.–In the case of a program of education approved by a State approving agency, or the Secretary of Veterans Affairs when acting in the role of a State approving agency, that is converted from being offered on-site at an educational institution to being offered by distance learning by reason of an emergency or health-related situation, as determined by the Secretary, the Secretary may continue to provide educational assistance under the laws administered by the Secretary without regard to such conversion, including with respect to paying any…

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13 thoughts on “GI Bill, Voc Rehab Subsistence Rates Get Fix For Forced Online Learning”

  1. They always forget about voc rehab…. 90% of Voc Rehab recipients are not working hence why they are being vocationally rehabilitated. Why then, are they not considered 100% on a temporary basis, or at the very least paid at the same rate as the GI Bill? It should be easy to see that Voc Rehab recipients have a greater need, if not, then why even have the program to begin with!?

  2. Why does the POTUS and VP not maintain separation. If this treat were serious they would not be rubbing elbows during news briefings and touching the same podium as other speakers. Why risk both going down simultaneously and Nancy becoming a wartime president? Interesting that the 2 most anti-foiegn aid, Lee and Paul, tested positive after meeting deep-statist Mitt.

      1. Also, if they viewed it as such a crisis, politics would not be involved in the Coronvirus Bill. They cannot ever accomplish anything clean. They all have to lick their own chops.

    1. I was denied to pay for internet when I email my VRE counselor. I even do not get pay the BHA properly and I am a graduate school student two semesters and will graduate as a clinical social worker. I wanted to continue with a Ph.D. and the VRE counselor is reducing my time left and denied my request. I email the chief of the VRE in Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC and he did not do anything about it?

  3. Pre-GI Bill students do not receive $1500/month. They always received $900/month maximum. Will that change? Do post-GI Bill recipients need more money to go to school?

  4. The part I find most interesting is what is unspoken but—to me, at least—blindingly obvious:

    Look how quickly our politicians can act when we’re paying attention. Oh sure, the ostensible reason is the National Emergency arising from a Global Pandemic. But they didn’t give a damn about any of this until the spotlight finally settled on them without promptly moving on to the President’s latest gaff.

    No need to summon Committees, no need to spend months “gathering comments” (that are disregarded anyway), no need to spend weeks “drafting language”. The just got it done.

    And lastly, notice how there was no need for (major) “bi-partisan” name-calling—I’m sure they still managed to point fingers at each other, but none of it actually amounted to anything.

    This is what our Congress should look like. Ignore the unimportant stuff, compromise on the important stuff to trade for the things that matter the most.

    NOT: pay out a butt ton of money to bail out failing industries (the two airlines, banks AGAIN, & ??oil??) who otherwise squawk about every government regulation as being “against Free Markets/Captialism”, and lay-off people anyway.

    Why is it we CAN afford to bail out big businesses, but not forgive student debt? Why is one inherently more fair/foul than the other? People in their twenties and thirties are far more likely to spend the money they save than businesses like airlines, who have to be (illegally) ordered to use the money to pay employees, but not CEOs (wanna bet they get their money anyway?).

    How is it we have $$$ to bail out airlines and oil companies, instead of simply increase unemployment benefits and let the bad businesses fail? Why not support local breweries and machine shops in a meaningful way (like oil companies)?

    Oh, yeah….none of those people pay Senators and Representatives hundreds of thousands of dollars to “speak”, or take them on “fact-finding tours”, or contribute zillions to their buying off their employment review (what we used to call an election).

    But I’m not bitter…

    1. Steve, I hear you.
      The Senators and Representatives drown in sob stories about needing donations from people who cannot even pay their bills. No amount of money is ever enough for them.
      Yes, bail out these big banks etc. and massive spending with zero concern about budgeting. Then, when it comes to unemployment insurance, veterans benefits and medical bills, Social security, salaries, here comes the police misers. Only time they really look at the dollar amount is when it does not concern them. The money does not belong to the politicians. Though, they believe it does. Ben, many Americans very well know the Democrat agenda. They are concerned about the virus yes.
      But however, they are more concerned about the Democratic forced quarantine. Police state positioning. Where I have been in the last couple of days, people are buying up guns and ammunition like there is no tomorrow. Ben, this is how many Americans are viewing the government. Trump has shifted majorly left. This is worrisome. The discussion about govt buying equity in the companies is not good. Govt overtake. You mentioned they way things are going in regards to education. With what the Democrats want, noone will need an education. But what the Democrats fail to realize is nobody will be working if they had it their way. Ultimately means no production, no manufacturing, no innovation, crop production, not much of anything. When the government does away with the private sector, they quickly forget government cannot generate profits and revenues. Govt cannot function by itself. They seem to believe that it can. I do not see the situation improving. I just do not. After the election maybe.

      1. @Angela,

        Add “Republicist” and “Republican” everywhere you wrote “Democrat” and “Democratic”.

        Take your blinders off.

  5. This is lining the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    Fact: VA, WLA, is the federal icon of care for Veterans because of unique deeds.
    Fact: non-veteran special interests have manipulated land-use away from it being a “Home” (1st deed) with beachfront pavilion (2nd deed).
    Fact: POTUS will engage the matter on Wednesday after endorsing the Paralympics that land-grabbers want the land for.

  6. Here’s another little item from *”military.com”*
    *”https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/03/20/lawmakers-submit-nearly-50-questions-va-over-its-covid-19-response.html”*

    These lawmakers want to know what the largest [single payer] American healthcare system is doing against this pandemic!
    What is your quess!?

    1. Want to know WHY that Chinavirus bill was not passed! Take a look at Pelosi and Schumer’s “wish list” contained:
      *”https://americantruthtoday.com/left-news/2020/03/23/nancy-pelosi-proposes-1-400-page-coronavirus-bill-stuffed-with-special-interest-goodies/?utm_source=sprklst&utm_campaign=rightwingtruth-pelosi-03_23-pm”*

      That’s why vets are left out in the cold!

  7. Anything a VA employee, from the Secretary on down, can do to sweeten their bonus check – come the end of the fiscal year – y’all better believe it will not look good for veterans!

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