Benefits of GI Bill May Be Lost for Students Who Fail to Comply with Vaccination Mandate – East Bay Times


Military veterans eligible for GI Bill benefits at state and community colleges and universities with COVID-19 vaccination mandates may have to drop out of classes and likely lose thousands of dollars in monthly housing allowances if they choose to do not get vaccinated.

As the pandemic emptied campuses in 2020, lawmakers changed rules that required veterans-turned-students to take at least some of their classes in person, allowing full-time virtual learning through December. Unless lawmakers make another extension or make other changes, those who refuse the vaccine and are not approved for religious or medical exemptions in schools with warrants, have said they will halt their studies or leave the state or go to private institutions with less restrictive mandates. .

The GI Bill requires veteran students to take at least one course on campus to receive the full monthly housing allowance of about $ 3,300, which in most schools reflects the cost of living. If they don’t, the amount they can receive drops to $ 900.

Hunter Holub, an infantry Marine who served at Camp Pendleton between 2014 and 2018, said he would choose to lose the money and possibly delay his education rather than get the shot. He is studying marketing at Saddleback Community College in southern Orange County.

“I will not sacrifice my religion,” he said. “God comes first.”

There may be consequences with this choice, he said. “I had a combat job in the Marines and it’s not about anything now. I will not be able to survive here and I may have to return to Wisconsin.

The University of California and California State University systems and several community college and private school districts have immunization mandates in place. Some offer weekly or bi-weekly testing as an alternative and some are still working on requirements and possible exemptions.

California is the first state in the country to say it will require COVID-19 vaccines for elementary school children after inoculations receive full federal approval and large corporations, healthcare facilities and entities. governments nationwide will have mandates in place. In many places, people push back and quit their jobs instead.

“Receiving a COVID vaccine continues to be the best way to prevent serious illness and hospitalizations, and to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Hazel Kelly, spokesperson for the Chancellor’s Office of the University of University’s system. State of California, adding that all students, including veterans, have been given several months to consider their choices.

By the end of September, all Cal State students were required to submit proof of vaccination or have an exemption filed with the university on a medical or religious basis, and these students are now required to undergo regular COVID-19 surveillance tests.

Under the mandate of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, which has at least 1,000 veterans enrolled each year, those who are not vaccinated must pass weekly tests and there have been no medical or religious exemptions over the course. of the fall semester.

Desiree Campos Marquez, the college’s veteran services manager as well as financial services and scholarships, said up to 100 veteran students could be affected in the spring. To prepare, the college is considering other plans to support these students, including advocating for an extension of current legislation allowing veteran students to be paid for online classes, she said.

Three lawmakers, Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, Rep. David Trone, D-Maryland, and Veterans Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Riverside, submitted a legislative proposal last month to expand opportunities in line until at least June.

“Veteran students continue to face significant challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while I am proud that we were able to pass strong and historic bipartite legislation to support them, it is clear that we need to build on that work and expand the protections available to them, ”Levin said in a statement.

At Saddleback College in Mission Viejo – one of Orange County’s most popular schools for veterans – officials declined to comment on the vaccination mandate policy, as the requirements are still being decided, said a spokesperson.

Greg Johnson, a 22-year-old army veteran who works in the community college’s veterans office to help students navigate their GI Bill benefits, said he regularly answers questions from veteran students considering dropping out classes rather than getting vaccinated.

It will be a huge problem, not just here, but in many schools across the state, ”he said.

Johnson, who is nearing the end of his own studies and refuses to be vaccinated, said he expected not to return in the spring.

“You can’t live on $ 900,” he said. “It’s impossible.”

In September, the district board of directors of South Orange County Community College – which oversees Saddleback – unanimously approved the vaccination mandate. A final decision on how it will be administered is expected in mid-November, college spokesperson Jennie McCue said.

She also pushed back on the Veterans Administration, saying legislation is needed “to relax the rule that students using the GI Bill must take at least one class in person.”

“This federal rule was created in response to predatory private colleges, not to force veterans to get vaccinated,” she said.

Denae McClure, a 36-year-old mother of four, is a full-time student at Saddleback College. This semester is her first comeback after starting in 2003. She is taking advantage of her husband’s GI Bill, which he can transfer to her.

Like Holub, McClure said she was asking for a religious exemption for refusing the vaccine.

“I signed up for classes and they might take religious exemptions and I might have to be tested twice a week and pay for it,” she said. “I’m a mom of four and I can’t afford it. Basically my education is being taken away from me again. Shouldn’t people support the school?

Congressman Levin’s office said Tuesday, November 2, it was “optimistic that the bill will become law by December 20.”

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