Legislation designed to protect the education benefits of student veterans during the pandemic was signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 21, 2021. NACUBO consistently advocated for protections in the bill, endorsed the legislation, and worked with lawmakers to help ensure its passage.
The Responsible Education Mitigating Options and Technical Extensions (REMOTE) Act, first introduced by Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) and Reps. Mike Levin (D-CA) and David Trone (D-MD), ensures that student veterans will not see their housing benefits reduced because the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated remote classwork.
The REMOTE Act ensures that remote learning waivers and continued related housing benefits for impacted students will be protected through June 2022. Prior to this change, the Department of Veterans Affairs was required to significantly reduce the housing benefits of student veterans who studied remotely, and as a result, many saw their benefits cut when most higher education was moved online for safety reasons.
The law also includes several provisions correcting legislation passed in 2021. First, the REMOTE Act addresses the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “rounding out” policy. This policy allows a student veteran in their final term to enroll in additional courses, which typically would not be eligible for GI Bill funding, to raise their enrollment status to full time. Previous VA policy had restricted those courses to only those related to a veteran’s degree program. The law restores a student veteran’s ability to “round out” by including courses previously taken as well as those unrelated to their major.
The REMOTE Act also eliminates the requirement of the use of dual certification of enrollment at institutions that utilize flat tuition and fee structures. Under dual certification, an institution first certifies enrollment with tuition and fees reported as zero to start a veteran’s housing payments. Later, the institution amends the certification with the correct tuition and fees amount after the end of the add/drop period, when course schedules are unlikely to change. While dual certification minimizes overpayments to institutions, it generally is not necessary at institutions with flat tuition and fee structures.