Maximizing Your VA Disability Benefits: A Guide to Paying for Dependents’ Education

February 4, 2023
Maximizing Your VA Disability Benefits: A Guide to Paying for Dependents' Education

Permanent and total disability due to a service-connected disability can be a challenge for veterans and their families. However, if you are eligible, there is a way to use your VA disability benefits to pay for your dependents’ education. The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program, also known as Chapter 35 benefits, provides educational support to veterans’ spouses and children. In this article, we will discuss the eligibility requirements, how to apply, and the different educational programs available to help you make the most of your VA disability benefits.

Eligibility Requirements

The VA defines a service-connected permanent and total disability as a disability resulting from service that does not go away. To be eligible for DEA benefits, both the dependent and the veteran or service member must meet specific criteria set by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • Service Member Requirements:
    • Died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001
    • Missing in action or 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
    • Hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and likely to be discharged for that disability.
  • Dependent Requirements:
    • Child or spouse of a veteran who is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability
    • Child or spouse of a veteran who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-connected disability.

Applying for DEA Benefits

To determine your eligibility for DEA benefits, you can visit the VA’s website. You will need your Social Security number, bank account direct deposit information, education and military history, and basic information about the school you plan to attend or are currently attending.

Before applying for education benefits, dependents must check with their school’s certifying official to ensure their program is approved for VA benefits. If approved, dependents can apply online or by mail using a Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits (VA Form 22-5490). The VA usually makes a decision within 30 days.

DEA Benefits and Program Details

The DEA benefits last for up to 36 months and cover a variety of educational programs, including 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, with the current monthly payment for full-time training being $1,265.

  • Benefits for Children: Children may use their benefits between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • Benefits for Spouses: 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.

There are some exceptions to the use of DEA benefits, and both children and spouses may have different benefits under the DEA program.

The Fry Scholarship: An Additional Option for Dependents

In addition to DEA, dependents of service members who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001 may also be eligible for the Fry Scholarship. This program provides up to 36 months of benefits that cover tuition, housing, books, and supplies.

If you’re eligible for both DEA and the Fry Scholarship, you’ll need to choose which program to use. This choice cannot be changed later, except for children whose parent died in the line of active duty before August 1, 2011. These children can use both programs for up to 81 months of full-time training, but only one program can be used at a time.

If you’re a veteran with a permanent and total disability, it’s worth exploring the DEA and Fry Scholarship programs to help support your dependents’ education. By following the eligibility criteria and application process outlined in this article, you can take advantage of these valuable benefits.

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