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Survivors & Dependents VA Education Benefits

VA Education Benefits for Survivors & Dependents

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides education benefits to dependents and survivors of our nation’s heroes.

The Survivors’ & Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program, also known as Chapter 35 Benefits, can be used to pay for college, vocational schools, certification tests, and apprenticeships, among other things.

Eligibility for Chapter 35 Education Benefits

You may be eligible for Chapter 35 benefits if you are the spouse or child of a service member who meets any of the following criteria.

The service member:

  • Died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001
  • Is missing in action or was captured in the line of duty by a hostile force
  • Was detained by force while in the line of duty by a foreign government or power
  • Is in the hospital or getting outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability.

Additionally, you may be eligible for VA education benefits under Chapter 35 if you’re the child or spouse of a Veteran and one of the following items is true.

The Veteran:

  • Is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability
  • Died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability

For the Child of a Veteran or Service Member

The following information applies of you are the child of a Veteran or Service Member described above:

  • You can receive benefits between the ages of 18 and 26, but there are exceptions.
  • You can be either married or unmarried.
  • If you’re over 18 and using DEA, you can NOT get Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA at the same time.
  • If you join the military, you cannot use this benefit while on active duty.
  • When using the benefit after leaving the service, you must not have a dishonorable discharge.
  • While military service can extend your eligibility for this benefit, the increase does not extend past your 31st birthday.

For the Spouse of a Veteran or Service Member

The following information applies if you are the spouse of a Veteran or service member described above.

  • Your benefits start on the date of your determined eligibility, or on the date of the Veteran’s death. The benefits last 10 years.
  • If the VA rated the Veteran as “permanently and totally disabled”, with an effective date that is years after the Veteran’s discharge, you will qualify for benefits for 20 years from the effective date.
  • If the service member died on active duty, your benefits end 20 years from the date of death.
  • You can get both DIC and DEA benefits simultaneously.

Moreover, if you are a dependent or spouse who does NOT meet the above criteria, there may still be other VA education benefits you could receive, especially if the service member transferred any portion of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to you.

RELATED: New Law Guarantees In-State Tuition for Survivors & Dependents

Chapter 35 Benefit Details

Once you’ve determined your eligibility, some great benefits may be applicable to your education situation. You stand to receive any of the following benefits:

  1. Education and training
  2. Money for tuition
  3. A housing stipend
  4. Money for books and supplies

The VA will send you a monthly payment that can help cover the costs associated with your education. This can include college courses, career training, education counseling, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training.

In most cases, you can receive these education benefits for up to 36 months.

Applying for Chapter 35 VA Benefits

There are two GI Bill programs that offer assistance to survivors and dependents of Veterans. For both of them you can Apply Online, or fill out a Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits (VA Form 22-5490) and mail it to the VA regional office where you want to go to school.

Find a VA Regional Office near your school.

The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship

The Fry Scholarship is for children and spouses of:

  • Active-duty service members who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001, or
  • Members of the Selected Reserve who died from a service-connected disability on or after September 11, 2001

The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

The DEA program offers education and training to eligible dependents of Veterans who:

  • Are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition, or
  • Died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition

You may qualify for both the Fry Scholarship and the DEA program, but you can only use one of them. Once you decide which to use, you can’t change to the other program.

Comparing the DEA to the Fry Scholarship

 

DEA ProgramFry Scholarship
How are payments made?

The benefit payment is sent directly to the student at the most current rate. Currently, the monthly payment for full-time payment is $1,265.

How are payments made?

Tuition and fees are paid directly to the school, which covers full in-state tuition and up to $25,162.14 per year at private or foreign schools.

The monies for books and supplies are paid directly to the student, up to $1,000 per year.

The monthly housing allowance is paid directly to the student at the local Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate for an E-5 with dependents. Online students get half the national BAH average.

Duration of Benefits for Spouses:

20 years from the service members date of death if they died on active duty. Or 10 years from the date of qualification after the Veteran passes.

Duration of Benefits for Spouses:

There is no time limit to use these benefits, but they will lose them if they remarry.

Duration of Benefits for Children:

A child may use the benefits between the ages of 18 and 26.

Duration of Benefits for Children:

A child who becomes eligible on or after January 1, 2013 has no time limit to use the benefits.

MAX months of Benefits? 

45 months of the first use was before August 1, 2018. 

36 months if the first use of benefits was after August 1, 2018.

MAX months of Benefits?

36 months.

Spouse Eligible for DIC and Education Benefits?

Yes.

Spouse Eligible for DIC and Education Benefits?

Yes.

Programs Covered:

  • College, business, technical, or vocational programs
  • Certification tests
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training
  • Tutorial assistance
  • Work Study
Programs Covered:

  • College, business, technical, or vocational programs
  • Certification tests
  • Apprenticeships
  • On-the-job training
  • Tutorial Assistance
  • Work Study
  • Vocational Flight Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, it is worth noting that only the Fry Scholarship can be used to pay for Flight Training.

Next Steps for Survivors and Dependents

After the loss of your Veteran or service member, your life will never be the same. You’ve endured a tragedy that few can comprehend.

Even so, to honor your loved one, take full advantage of the educational assistance available to you as a surviving spouse or child through the VA’s Chapter 35 benefits.

Your life can and will go on. Apply for Chapter 35 Benefits today!

(Image courtesy of David Kay via Shutterstock)

 

 

 

About the author

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Robert Haynes is a retired Army infantryman who has a squad of kids and is married to an active duty Soldier. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who spent his last few years in the Army as a Drill Sergeant. He is now a full-time dad, freelance writer, and out-of-work comedian.