Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today introduced legislation in the House, to extend complete GI Bill benefits to veterans earning degrees entirely online or with a significant online course load. The Veteran's Distance Education Benefits Act would finish the job started by the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, extending benefits to veterans earning degrees at non-traditional online institutions.
"The internet has made distance learning a valuable choice for students, especially in rural areas," said Rehberg a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "For our veterans, the federal government has always covered the cost-of-living so they could focus on their education. But Congress decided that this benefit shouldn't apply to distance learning, an error that needs to be resolved."
Providing veterans with quality educational benefits is a cornerstone of how we care for our soldiers after their service has ended. The Post 9/11 GI Bill was designed to provide new veterans with greater flexibility and create an educational system that could meet the 21st Century needs of our soldiers. Among these needs, soldiers asked for an increased focus on providing distance education benefits.
Currently, five of the ten colleges with the highest veteran populations are colleges that are entirely online or have significant online course loads. Under the G.I. Bill, veterans may receive funds to pay for tuition, fees and books at these distance learning institutions. However, distance learners are ineligible for a third type of GI Bill benefits, living expenses.
Rehberg's legislation, supported by the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American and the Student Veterans of America, extends cost-of-living benefits to veterans earning degrees by distance learning.
"We are honored to offer our support for Congressman Rehberg's bill granting veterans pursuing their education through distance learning, a living allowance," said Patrick Campbell, Chief Legislative Counsel for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "Distance learning is a wildly popular form of education for veterans and allows veterans with disabilities and family commitments an opportunity to complete an education. This unfair distinction must be rectified. Denny's bill will help to rectify this problem by giving veterans, taking distance-learning classes, a comparable living stipend."
"We strongly support your efforts to include a housing allowance for student veterans pursuing their educational goals through distance learning," said Brian Hawthorne, Legislative Director of the Student Veterans of America. "Many of our service members are encouraged to study online while on active duty, even while deployed to a warzone. There are also many veterans who simply cannot attend a brick-and-mortar school due to familial responsibilities or other personal situations. Additionally, many of our wounded warriors are actively pursuing their degrees online, as that technology allows them to study in the comfort of their home or treatment facility."