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Student veterans studying online to get GI Bill housing stipend next month

WASHINGTON — Student veterans attending online classes under the post-9/11 GI Bill will start receiving housing stipend checks next month for the first time, part of another slate of changes to the education benefit.

Late last year, Congress approved numerous reforms to the 2-year-old education benefit, including changes in the amount paid to students attending private schools and fixes to how certain National Guard members receive tuition money. Most of the changes went into effect Aug. 1, but a handful of less heralded but significant updates will take effect Oct. 1.

Among them are new rules regarding the housing stipend for online students. In the past, only veterans attending brick-and-mortar schools received a payout, worth about $1,300 a month.

Now, full-time online students will receive a housing stipend of $673.50 a month, half the national average of what traditional students receive. VA officials said those payouts will start automatically for students who qualify, and the first checks will arrive in mid-October.

The department estimates that 22,000 students will qualify for the new housing stipends. It is not available for active-duty troops attending classes, because they already receive basic assistance for housing from the Defense Department.

But, for the first time, the changes do allow for those servicemembers to begin receiving the program’s books and equipment stipend, which pays up to $1,000 each year.

And VA officials said they expect about 40,000 more veterans to take advantage of new rules allowing the post-9/11 GI Bill to be used for non-college degree programs like apprenticeship training, correspondence courses and vocational rehab. Those programs were covered under other VA education benefits in the past, but the new changes will provide more money and housing stipends to those individuals.

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