Nearly 90 percent of veterans polled by the advocacy group believe massive social changes resulting from the pandemic — including most colleges shifting to online-only classes and many businesses temporarily shutting down operations — will significantly impact their education goals.
In addition, about one in three of student veterans polled said they worry their GI Bill benefits won’t be delivered on time in coming months (or delivered at all) and about one in five are no longer earning a paycheck or expect to be unemployed soon.
SVA leaders said the findings show government leaders and advocates need to work closely in coming months to calm fears and ensure those students aren’t left in financial disarray.
“Our findings have demonstrated that student veterans feel they are at great risk both academically and economically due to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Jaren Lyon, national president of the group.
“We will be working with our partners in corporate America, higher education, government, and others to identify ways we can all step in together to support tomorrow’s leaders as they face this time of increased uncertainty.”
The report results were based results from 567 SVA members who responded to an online survey conducted from March 17 to 19.
Less than half of the group said they have received updates from either their school or VA on the status of their education benefits. Earlier this month, Congress finalized new legislation allowing the VA Secretary to continue all GI Bill payouts uninterrupted as a result of the coronavirus national emergency.
SVA officials noted that changes in college education benefits can hit veterans harder than other students because the former military members tend to be older than their college peers and more likely to have spouses and dependents. As a result, changes in their income will typically impact more people.
About 22 percent of student veterans surveyed expressed concern about buying groceries for their family, and roughly the same said they are now worried about making their mortgage or rent payments on time.
Those numbers are likely to have increased since the poll was conducted two weeks ago. SVA officials said they will be conducting additional polls in coming weeks, to gauge potential problems and concerns as they emerge in the community.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.