Veterans face financial insecurity from GI Bill payouts as courses go online


DePaul’s recent switch from in-person classes to online may harm one of its most vulnerable communities — its veterans. 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, universities nationwide have moved courses online for the rest of the school year, which prevents GI Bill users from getting Military Housing Allowance (MHA), a large portion of GI Bill payments.

Joel Taboada, an Army veteran at DePaul, said that “by the university reporting the courses as online, it will cut the MHA payout by roughly half.” 

In order to qualify for MHA, students cannot be enrolled in online-only classes. Without MHA, students will get $840.50 monthly instead of around $2,000 monthly.

Even in the face of widespread social distancing, the Veteran Affairs (VA) will uphold MHA regulations. 

For any subsequent terms pursued solely online, the Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) under the Post-9/11 GI Bill will be reduced to one-half of the national average of DoD’s Basic Allowance for Housing rates for an E-5 with dependents,” the VA said. “The limitations on MHA rates are codified in statute (38 U.S.C. § 3313(c)(1)(B)(iii).”

Many veterans at DePaul rely on GI Bill payments to cover their monthly expenses.

“In my case, this will make paying the rent more difficult due to not being able to rely on my full MHA benefit that I have earned,” Taboada said.

Legislation introduced to the U.S. House by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., a  ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, would give the department authority in “emergencies and health-related situations” to continue paying student veterans their current benefits even as classes switch to online.

DePaul issued one solution in response:

“We do not want to encourage any student to have to take out a student loan if they do not absolutely need to, but student loans that might be available through the FAFSA could help students who are financially impacted if the VA ends up reducing the MHA payments to the online rate for the spring term.”

For Marine veteran, Eduardo Rodriguez, DePaul’s response isn’t helping veterans in their time of need.

“It sounds more like we’re being told to just figure it out on our own instead of working with us and the VA to find a solution that can work for us all,” Rodriguez said. “It makes me wish that our university and Congress fought half as hard for its veterans as our veterans did for them.”

University spokesperson Carol Hughes said concerned students adversely impacted should be in touch with the Office of Veteran Affairs, “which can triage student situations for possible referral to other campus resources.”

According to a statement by the Office of Veteran Affairs, one way DePaul fights for veterans is “[pressing] our elected officials to do the right thing for GI Bill recipients,” but it is unclear how they are doing that. 

“The GI Bill is a veteran benefit and entitlement, we earned it and I hope DePaul can respect that and us by doing whatever they can to secure something our veteran community has sacrificed so much for,” Rodriguez said.