WASHINGTON, D.C.- Today, Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Al Green (D-TX), released the following statements after the House passage of the bipartisan Veterans Education Disaster Assistance Act, as part of H.R. 5649, the Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William `Bill' Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act of 2018.The Veterans Education Disaster Assistance Act ensures veterans continue to receive the housing stipends and supply fee payment waivers that they are entitled to receive when they face extended school closures due to natural disasters.
Recent natural disasters have ravaged our towns, cities, and communities, leaving them in a state of turmoil and destruction. Homes, small businesses, and schools have all been impacted, and many remain closed today. When educational institutions close, our veterans are often displaced, and in many cases, forced to take online classes. This may be fine for the average student, but veteran’s education assistance is based upon their presence in a physical classroom. When they can no longer attend classes, based on circumstances outside of their physical control, they are only eligible for half of the available funding, leaving them scrambling to pay their rent and bills. The Department of Veterans Affairs currently has a 4-week waiver that would allow veterans to receive their full Basic Housing Allowance despite taking online courses after natural disasters. The Veterans Education Disaster Assistance Act extends this waiver to cover the entire semester.
"In the face of last year’s natural disasters, hundreds of veterans who admirably served our nation had their benefits suddenly stripped away. No veteran should suffer because of disaster forced school closures,” said Rep. Poe. “In Texas’s Second Congressional District, Lone Star College-Kingwood was stricken by Hurricane Harvey and left inaccessible. Veterans who seek to physically attend classes were forced online; the school was inaccessible for the foreseeable future until repairs could be made. This simple, yet necessary legislation provides relief to student veterans who are simply trying to continue their education, but are denied assistance based on circumstances outside of their control. I look forward to the Senate quickly taking up this important legislation.”
“Natural disasters have the terrible power to damage, destroy, and forever take away the things we hold dear. For veterans in the Houston-area, few believed that list included their education benefits. Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey proved them wrong,” said Rep. Green. “After the storm closed their schools, these veterans were forced to take online classes and their benefits were reduced. Veterans should never be penalized as a result of a disaster, and I was proud to join my colleague Congressman Poe in introducing the Veterans Education Disaster Assistance Act. I am pleased that the House passed this necessary legislation and hope the Senate will act swiftly to send this bill to the President’s desk.”
This legislation is endorsed by the Student Veterans of America.