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Education and Training

Student FAQs: COVID-19 Information Affecting Education Benefits for Students

Special COVID-19 rules extended to December 21, 2021. 
The content has been updated to reflect the extension.    

From the beginning of COVID-19, we have been working with Congress to preserve GI Bill® benefits for those of you impacted by COVID-19. In the Spring of 2020, the President signed Public Law 116-128, then Public Law 116-140 (Student Veteran Coronavirus Response Act of 2020. These laws give VA temporary authority to pay education benefits and Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) payments to GI Bill students at the resident rate when their programs are converted from in-person to online learning solely due to COVID-19 until December 21, 2021.

Originally, these special COVID-19 laws were only in effect from March 1 to December 21, 2020. However, in the fall of 2020, these laws were extended by PL 116-159, section 5202, applying special COVID-19 rules until December 21, 2021. These laws cover situations where 1) your school is offering hybrid training (combining online with resident training) or 2) where your school is offering you the option to choose online training in lieu of resident (physically in person) training. Additionally, VA will afford these same protections if you are a new student. While there is no requirement that you must have a previous history of taking resident courses, you must at least be enrolled in an officially “converted course” (a course which your school previously offered as resident training prior to COVID-19, but now offers online due to COVID-19).

What does that mean? In summary, Post-9/11 GI Bill students enrolled in approved resident (physically in-person) courses at a rate of pursuit of more than 50%, which have been converted to online learning solely due to COVID-19, will continue to receive benefits, including Monthly Housing Allowance, at the resident rate until December 21, 2021, or until the school resumes normal operations of resident training, whichever comes first.

Q1) My school changed my program from resident classes to online classes. Will VA still pay my GI Bill benefits and Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA)?

If your school converts your approved resident (physically in-person) training course to online training (distance learning) due to COVID-19, your benefits will not change.

This applies to students currently enrolled in approved courses and students who are planning to enroll in courses in the near future. However, keep in mind, the law only authorizes VA to pay GI Bill education benefits and MHA payments from March 1, 2020, to December 21, 2021. It is also important to note that other changes to your enrollment status (i.e. dropping a class and falling below the 50% rate of pursuit or withdrawing from school) may affect your payments.

Note: “Resident” classes refer to classes taken physically in person. Classes using video conferencing technology, for example, are still considered “online learning/training.”

For example: If you are a Post-9/11 GI Bill student currently enrolled in an approved resident program, but your school converts your program to online or distance learning because of COVID-19, you will not see reduced MHA payments and will continue to receive the resident housing rate while you are enrolled.

Q2) I’m currently enrolled in programs that have always been online, even before COVID-19. Does that mean I will also be able to receive GI Bill benefits at the resident rate?

No, only enrolling in classes that were previously approved resident (physically in-person) classes that transitioned to online learning due to COVID-19 restrictions allows you to receive the resident rate. Check with your School Certifying Official (SCO) or school to see if they have an updated list of approved classes.

 Note: “Resident” classes refer to classes taken physically in person. Classes using video conferencing technology, for example, are still considered “online learning/training.”

Q3. As I prepare for classes in the 2021 calendar year, what do I need to know?

Special COVID-19 Legislation has been extended until December 21, 2021. What does that mean?

  • VA worked with Congress to extend special COVID-19 legislation until December 21, 2021 and reduce disruption of your MHA stipends during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Your MHA and GI Bill benefits will not change if your courses were converted to online due to COVID-19.
  • As you select your course work, plan accordingly and make sure you know how the legislation applies. See if your school has a list of approved converted online classes.

Q4) My school has changed its term length due to COVID-19 and my classes are ending earlier than originally planned. How does that impact my MHA?

Your MHA is prorated based on the number of days in the month that you are attending classes. This means, according to law, VA is unable to pay MHA over vacation breaks. 

For example: Your courses end of term date was originally set for December 15th, but they are now set to end November 30th because of your school’s COVID-19 policies. The next term doesn’t start until January. This would mean you are now only receiving payments through the end of November while the term is in session. You will not receive any benefits for December.

Q5) What if I become ill due to COVID-19, or another emergency situation arises, and I cannot continue to take my course and need to withdraw? What happens to my benefits?

VA is unable to continue payments beyond your attendance. Additionally, your grade for the class will follow your school’s individual attendance policy.

Q6) If I am unable to attend school due to COVID-19, but my school is in session, will I still receive my education benefits?

VA can pay you through the last date of attendance, but not through the end of the term. This may create a prorated tuition & fees debt and a housing overpayment for you. If you do get a debt, you can request a waiver when you are notified of that debt. Learn more at Submit a Waiver Request.  Additionally, VA does provide additional support to students who owe debts (see question 7 for additional information).

Q7) What if I’m experiencing a financial hardship due to COVID-19 and owe a debt to VA, is there any relief for me?

VA’s Debt Management Center (DMC) took action as of April 3, 2020, to stop collection on newly established Veteran debt and made it easier for Veterans to request extended repayment plans and address other needs during this time. DMC will start sending debt notification letters after January 1, 2021. If you are still experiencing financial difficulties related to COVID-19, we will work with you regarding options for extended repayment terms, waivers, compromises, or other options.

DMC encourages Veterans and family members affected by COVID-19 who have a VBA benefit debt and need temporary financial relief to contact the DMC at 1-800-827-0648 to request assistance. This debt relief flyer has additional information.

If you have questions about your specific circumstance, please contact the Education Call Center at: 1-888-442-4551 between 8 AM and 7 PM Eastern Time, Monday-Friday, or submit your question electronically.  

Q8) What happens if my school is closed temporarily due to COVID-19?

If your school is temporarily closed, VA will continue to pay your benefits through the end of the term or 28 days, whichever is sooner.

Q9) What happens when my school’s resident lab portion of a course is canceled or marked as incomplete due to COVID-19 and the school does not allow me to move to the next class in the degree program? (i.e. I need to complete Organic Chemistry 1 lab before I can enroll in Organic Chemistry 2 next semester).

VA lacks authority to handle these situations in any special way due to COVID-19. VA has instructed schools to follow their “Incomplete Grade” policy and apply that procedure, if applicable. When the school is eventually able to continue training, you will be allowed to complete the lab portion without any further reporting requirements to VA.  However, if the discontinued class is a prerequisite to future classes, you cannot enroll in the next sequential required class until the pre-requisite is complete.  If your school doesn’t have an “Incomplete Grate” policy, the school should withdraw you from the class based on your last date of attendance. However, if this action changes your rate of pursuit, your MHA may be affected.

Q10) Will VA pay for my benefits if my school changes from a standard grade scale (A, B, C…) to a Pass/Fail or other grading system due to COVID-19?

It depends on your school’s grading policy. You will need to check with your School Certifying Official to confirm. However, rules about failing grades have not changed with this COVID-19 legislation

Q11) What happens if my On the Job Training (OJT) or Apprenticeship establishment changes to online and remains open, but I can’t work because I was furloughed? What if it temporarily ceases the trainee program training due to COVID-19?

  • If your training facility can change to an online format, you will continue to receive your regular MHA payment.
  • If your training facility remains open, but you must stop training (due to furlough, illness, etc.), VA can only pay education benefits through the last day of your training. 
  • If the facility where you work temporarily ceases operations, VA can continue to pay trainees their monthly housing through the end of the program or for 28 days, whichever is sooner.

Q12) What should I know if I am participating in work-study?

The new laws allow VA to continue to pay work-study allowance at the full-rate of 25 hours per week even if the student is unable to work those hours due to COVID-19. This protection is only available for students who were already participating in a work-study program on March 1, 2020. These students are allowed to extend their work-study contracts and continue to participate in the work-study program through the fall semester.

For students who began work study contracts in the fall of 2020 (after March 1, 2020), this does not apply. The special COVID-19 law is limited to students who began a work study contract prior to March 1, 2020. For those students who began a new work study contract after March 1, 2020, VA is unable to continue to pay work study benefits during the periods in which the student is prevented from performing qualifying work-study activities, even if the reason if due to COVID-19.

Q13) Where should School Certifying Officials (SCO) go if they have questions?

Check out our SCO-specific COVID-19 FAQ page.