Pandemic Protection for Vets Using GI Bill Housing Benefit Extended to June

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Airman Dalton Shank, 5th Bomb Wing public affairs specialist, reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)
A public affairs specialist airman reads pamphlets on the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alyssa M. Akers)

Veterans receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits will get their full housing stipends through the spring even if classes are forced to go back online under a bill signed Tuesday by President Joe Biden.

The bill, dubbed the Responsible Education Mitigating Options and Technical Extensions, or REMOTE, Act, extends a COVID-19 pandemic protection for student veterans that had been set to expire the same day the White House announced Biden signed the measure.

In addition to providing tuition benefits, the GI Bill provides student veterans with a housing allowance. Normally, those taking in-person classes get the full housing benefit, while those taking online classes get half the amount.

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But last year, as the pandemic forced colleges to shutter their campuses and move classes online, Congress passed a bill to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs kept paying out the full allowance even to students who wouldn't be attending class in person.

The bill signed Tuesday extends that protection to June 1, 2022. The measure passed both chambers of Congress earlier this month in voice votes, meaning ostensibly that there were no objections, a sign of its broad bipartisan support.

"Veterans who are learning remotely deserve their full VA housing benefits, and this legislation will make sure they are not unfairly penalized for pursuing their education online during the pandemic," Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., the bill's Senate sponsor, said in a statement after Biden signed it.

The exact amount of the housing stipend depends on the location of the school, so halving it could mean losing anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

About 57,000 students are currently using the GI Bill for college classes and may be affected by the legislation.

While most colleges resumed in-person classes as COVID-19 vaccines became available and officials developed plans to test, track and isolate cases, several schools have announced plans to start next semester remotely as the Omicron variant of the virus takes hold in the United States and causes a spike in cases.

"The REMOTE Act ensures that student veterans receive the education benefits they need during an ever-changing and evolving pandemic," Rep. David Trone, D-Md., the House sponsor of the bill, said in a statement when it passed that chamber.

-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at rebecca.kheel@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

Related: Student Veterans Battle for GI Bill Benefits at MIT, Another School Fighting the VA

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