Rep. Poe File Legislation to Extend Veterans Educational Waivers After Natural Disaster
Yesterday, I, along with Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Al Green (D-TX), filed H.R. 3940, the bipartisan Veterans Education Disaster Act, which ensures that 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 veterans 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 natural disaster, no veteran should suffer because of school closures. 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.
“This year alone in Oregon we’ve seen destructive snow storms, excessive heat, and horrific wildfires each bring our communities to a halt for days, weeks and sometimes months on end,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader. “Dealing with the fallout from any natural disaster is difficult enough for anyone. For our veterans in school, however, it can mean an inability to pay rent or put food on the table, on top of the difficulties they, like all their neighbors, may already face with post-disaster cleanup. Our bill provides a common sense fix to help our veterans who could otherwise be left high and dry.”
This legislation is endorsed by the Student Veterans of America.