Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance is a program managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs that provides up to 45 months of educational benefits to children and spouses of disabled veterans and surviving family members of deceased veterans. The recipients can use the benefit for many different educational experiences and the VA may approve even non-traditional courses under certain circumstances.
To be eligible for the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program you must be the spouse, child, stepchild or adopted child of a veteran who has been rated as permanently and totally disabled or a permanently and totally disabled veteran who dies for any reason. Children and spouses of service members who are missing in action or are captured and being held by a hostile force are eligible for DEA.
Children are eligible for the DEA benefit between the ages of 18 and 26. In some circumstances a child can use the benefit before the age of 18 or after the age of 26. Children on active duty are not eligible, but the VA can extend their benefits for the amount of time they were on active duty. DEA benefits generally end 10 years after the date of the death of the veteran or when the VA finds you eligible. In 2008, the VA amended the benefit, making it possible for spouses to remain eligible for up to 20 years from the date of the veteran's disability rating. For eligible surviving spouses of deceased veterans, the benefit expires 20 years after the death of the veteran.
Types of Training
Eligible training for the DEA program includes degree and certificate programs at colleges and universities; certificate programs at business, technical or vocational schools; apprenticeships offered by companies or unions; certain correspondence courses; preparatory courses for college entrance and high school programs for individuals over 18 years old who are not high school graduates. Any course that is approved by a State Approving Agency or the VA is eligible for the DEA program. Courses that are not eligible typically include non-accredited courses or courses that do not lead to an educational, professional or vocational goal.
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How to Apply
Before applying for the DEA benefit, ensure that you are eligible for the program. Contact the VA. Complete VA Form 22-5490 and send it to the nearest VA regional office in the state where the school is located. If you are already attending school and would like to apply for benefits, in addition to the application, ask the school to complete VA Form 22-1999, Enrollment Certification, and send both forms to the VA. This will expedite the process. Applications are available online at GIBILL.va.gov. You can fill out the application online or print out a copy that you can mail in. Applications are also available by calling 888-442-4551.
Payment amount and frequency depend on the educational track you choose. College and vocational training pays monthly payments based on the status of your enrollment; full-time, three-quarter-time or half-time. Apprenticeship and on-the-job training program payments taper off over time as your income increases with the organization. Correspondence courses typically pay a one-time payment of 55 percent of the total cost of the course, after completion. Certification and licensing tests pay a single payment of 100 percent, up to $2,000 or your remaining DEA benefit.