Veterans

Hundreds of Orange County veterans should not be forced to relinquish thousands of dollars of educational financial aid because of their decision to enroll as unvaccinated students. With the General Issue (GI) Bill special COVID-19 rules expiring on Dec. 21, veteran students who are unable to attend in-person lectures next year will be in jeopardy of losing most of their benefits.

Established in 1944, the GI Bill has provided generations of veterans with funds for education, unemployment insurance, and housing.

As it currently stands, the GI Bill allows veteran students to receive roughly $3,300 a month as a housing allowance, whether or not their college enrollment status is virtual, hybrid or in-person. However, with California schools rolling out vaccine mandates, individuals who are reluctant to get the shot could have as much as $2,400 in monthly aid deducted from their benefits due to the expiration of the virtual-learning clause in the GI Bill. The original text of the bill states that a veteran student must enroll in at least one in-person class to collect the maximum monthly benefits.

As schools solidify their vaccine policy and begin hosting on-campus lectures, it will be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for unvaccinated veterans without medical or religious exemptions to get their entire share of financial aid.

Lawmakers in California have already proposed legislation to extend the online learning clause through at least June, but nothing will be set in stone until at least Dec. 20, a California representative’s office told the OC Register.

If the extension were to fail in the legislature, and the unvaccinated veterans lost out on approximately 73% of their usual aid, it would be a complete and utter embarrassment for politicians and educational institutions across the state. 

It is not the most appreciative notion towards ex-service members to jeopardize their ability to afford higher education and/or housing during a global pandemic that has already crippled labor markets, and contributed to one-in-six tenants falling behind on rent.

There is a lack of continuity associated with the GI Bill’s virtual learning accommodation that risks disrupting a veteran student’s education. 

If politicians were aware enough to grant veteran students the ability to earn their benefits virtually, they should have anticipated that schools would eventually mandate a vaccination for on-campus enrollment.

The fact that the virtual rule expires in the middle of the academic year is a blatantly reckless flaw. Most students working towards a two-year or bachelor’s degree finish their coursework after the spring semester, at the end of June. Taking away unvaccinated veterans’ funding mid-year is a slap in the face, and will only complicate the funding of veterans even further.

Veterans should be given the opportunity to fund their scholastic efforts through the 2021-2022 academic year, that way, unvaccinated GI Bill beneficiaries will have time to assess whether they need to transfer schools to exercise their resistance to any vaccine mandate, while still pursuing their educational goals.

Many of these veterans have made unbelievable sacrifices for our country. The least California can do is etch out a compromise or make an exception for our service members.

 

The Coast Report Editorial Board consists of the editor in chief and section editors. One member of the editorial board writes the editorial and this rotates throughout the semester. 

Editorial topics are pitched by all members of the board and a single topic is selected for each editorial. Each editorial board member votes on their position on the selected topic and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a tie on the first vote, editorial board members engage in continued discussion and state the reasons for their initial vote. A second vote is then taken and the majority position becomes that of the editorial. In the event of a second tied vote, the editorial position will be decided at the discretion of the editor in chief.

For this editorial, the board vote on the issue resulted in a 5-1 majority of the board voting “yes” to the question "Should GI Bill benefits be extended until June 2022 for college students that don't get the vaccine?" Coast Report publishes voting results to promote transparency.   

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