Editor’s note: This article by Jim Absher originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.
GI Bill users who have seen their classes move from classroom to online-only sessions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can expect to keep getting the full Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) through at least December of 2021 thanks to newly passed legislation.
GI Bill Housing Allowance for Online Learning
Starting in March 2020, many schools curtailed classroom sessions and switched to strictly online courses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But students using the Post-9/11 GI Bill faced a problem: the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays students who take online-only courses a lower MHA payment than students who attend class in person. That could have resulted in hundreds of thousands of veterans and their family members seeing a drastic drop in their MHA payments, many seeing a drop of $1,000 or more each month.
[MORE AT MILITARY.COM: Details on the GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance]
To rectify this, a law was passed back in March which said that all Department of Veterans Affairs education payments for classes that are "converted from being offered on-site to distance learning by reason of an emergency or health-related situation" will continue to be paid as if they were conducted in the classroom.
That meant that most people saw no drop in their MHA or GI Bill payments. But the law was only effective through Dec. 21, 2020.
GI Bill MHA Changes Included in Continuing Resolution
With COVID-19 still in play, many schools are looking at extending online-only learning for at least the foreseeable future. So, Congress added language to HR 8337, the 2021 Continuing Resolution, to continue paying GI Bill recipients through Dec. 21, 2021 the original higher MHA rate to which they would normally be entitled.
That means that GI Bill students whose classes are already or will be moved to online-only sessions thanks to the pandemic will continue to receive their full MHA through at least December of next year.
[FROM VA.GOV: Frequently Asked Questions on the GI Bill and COVID-19]
Like the original measure, the change only applies to students taking classes that have been (or will be) switched from in-person to online, not to those whose programs were online-only to start with.
GI Bill Time Limits Also Extended
Another provision of the Continuing Resolution helps GI Bill students whose schools closed or stopped instruction as a result of COVID-19.
Some GI Bill programs limit the length of time students have to use their benefits after they leave the service, or are found eligible for the benefit. Normally this period of eligibility is 10 to 15 years from the date they left the service or were found eligible.
[MORE FROM MOAA: Latest Transition and Career News]
The new law says that students who are kept from going to school as a result of COVID-19 will have their GI Bill eligibility extended by the length of time they are prevented from going to school. The time limit for this provision has also been extended through Dec. 21, 2021.