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While death benefits are resumed, tuition assistance for servicemen still on hold due to shutdown

The consequences of the government shutdown don’t stop at national parks and NASA funding. Despite the vote to restore death benefits for families of veterans, military families are still hit hard by the gridlock in Congress. CBS News reports that $6 billion in Veterans Affairs benefits are threatened if the shutdown continues into November. Education payments make up a large part of these benefits.

Some sectors of the military are already feeling the pain. According to the Army Times, tuition assistance for Army soldiers has been frozen for classes that started after Oct. 1. Two thousand soldiers had classes scheduled to begin that week. All tuition assistance requests for classes beginning after Oct. 1 will be rejected, including those that were already approved.

Any soldiers who enroll in classes for the duration of the shutdown must shoulder the debt themselves.

The GI Bill also stands to be affected by the government shutdown. The GI Bill provides financial aid that contributes to education and housing for former and current military service members. Programs covered by the bill include everything from both undergraduate and graduate degrees to technical certification and entrepreneurship training.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has funding through the end of October. If the federal government is still closed by Nov. 1, tuition payments to millions of service members enrolled in schools across the nation will be frozen.

Many former service members depend on these benefits to put food on the table and pay the rent while attaining the degrees required to get jobs in the civilian world. Freezing VA benefits endangers not only veterans, but their families and dependents.

There was a storm of media coverage on the issue of death benefits, and Congress acted quickly to restore them. The move to restore those benefits was an important step, but the focus on emotional topics to the exclusion of all else does a disservice to the living service members harmed by the shutdown.

It’s too easy for legislators to point to the unanimous passage of the bill for death benefits and say that they care about veterans while they continue to act irresponsibly and perpetuate a shutdown that will leave millions of current service members and veterans without assistance for schooling or the money to put food on the table.

The shutdown is essentially a breach of contract. Service members give their lives to the country, and the country fails to give back something as simple as an education. Even if a solution passes before November, the damage has already been done.

Post-shutdown tuition requests will be accepted — except for classes that started during the shutdown period. Soldiers are still responsible for those classes.

Opinion columnist Megan Kallus is a pre-business freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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