If you qualify for permanent and total disability due to a service-connected disability, you could be eligible to pass education benefits to your dependent.
Under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program, your spouse or child may be able to get help paying for school or job training. Through this program, commonly known as Chapter 35 benefits, both the dependent and the veteran or service member must meet eligibility requirements under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The service member must have died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001, be missing in action or have been captured in the line of duty by a hostile force, held by force while in the line of duty by a foreign government or power or be in the hospital or receiving outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability, and be likely to be discharged for that disability.
A child or spouse of a veteran may qualify if the veteran is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability or died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability.
The VA defines a service-connected permanent and total disability as a disability resulting from service that does not go away.
How to apply
To apply for GI Bill and related benefits, potential applicants should determine if they are eligible on the VA’s website.
Applicants need their Social Security number, bank account direct deposit information, education and military history and basic information about the education institution they plan to attend or are currently attending.
When applying for education benefits, dependents must also check with their school’s certifying official to ensure their program is approved for VA benefits. If the school is approved, the dependent can apply online or by mail using a Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits (VA Form 22-5490).
A decision usually comes within 30 days, according to an average estimate from the VA’s website.
DEA benefits last for a maximum of 36 months and cover a variety of educational programs (college, business, technical, vocational), certification tests, apprenticeships and on-the-job training, tutorial assistance and work study.
The VA pays the monthly amount directly to the student. Currently, the monthly payment for full-time training is $1,265.
Spouses and children qualify for slightly different benefits under the DEA.
Children may use their benefits between ages 18 and 26. Spouses are able to use the benefits for 20 years from the date of the service member’s death (if they died on active duty), 10 years from a VA-determined date of qualification or from the veteran’s date of death. Both groups may have some exceptions applied to their use of benefits.
The Fry Scholarship
There is also another program that offers educational assistance to dependents. The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship grants money to children and spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. The Fry Scholarship grants up to 36 months of benefits that apply to tuition, housing and books and supplies.
Dependents who qualify for both the Fry Scholarship and DEA must choose what program they would like to use. The choice cannot be changed later. This choice excludes children whose parent died in the line of active duty before August 1, 2011. The child may use both programs for up to 81 months of full-time training, but only one program can be used at a time.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated DEA benefits last 45 months. DEA benefits could be used for 45 months if the first use of benefits was before August 1, 2018, but were reduced to 36 months if the first use of benefits was after August 1, 2018.