If approved, the measure would result in a significant financial boost to students working through summer months to accelerate their degree programs. The measure faces an uncertain path to becoming law, however, given a host of other legislative priorities Congress is presently facing.
The proposal — offered by Republican Reps. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin, Greg Stanton of Arizona, and Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury of New Mexico — comes in response to the growing offerings of online classes and non-traditional degree timelines.
The plan would not affect students studying remotely during the traditional school year. Those individuals currently receive monthly housing stipends of up to about $1,000 — half the national average of housing support payouts to active-duty troops and full-time GI Bill students.
Students who attend classes in person receive payouts based on where their school is located, with some getting more than $3,000 monthly to help with higher rent and living costs in expensive areas. But that total is slashed in half if students attend all of a semester’s classes remotely.
The new proposal would guarantee stipends of nearly $2,000 a month for 12-week summer courses, helping to cover those personal expenses.
“As our service members transition to civilian life and pursue educational opportunities, they should have full access to all the benefits they have rightfully earned,” Ciscomani said in a statement. “In response to the growing prevalence of virtual classes, this legislation seeks to eliminate the disparity in benefits between in-person and online student veterans.”
The legislation wouldn’t go into effect until August 2024, meaning GI Bill users would not be able to receive the larger stipends until the summer 2025 semester at the earliest. Still, Stansbury said in a statement that the move is needed now to “help close the gap and help our veterans pursue higher education on their own timeline.”
But House leaders have not announced any timeline for consideration of the measure. Both congressional chambers are working this week to pass budget bills and avoid a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. But no clear plan to keep federal operations running normally has emerged.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most popular education benefit provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, with more than 834,000 beneficiaries receiving about $9.9 billion in financial support in fiscal 2022.
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.