Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program

As stated in previous blogs, there are a wide array of additional benefits that come with having a VA disability rating of 100% P&T (permanent and total). The one I like to cover for today’s blog entry is the Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program otherwise known as Chapter 35.  As a parent myself with five children, the thought of how I can help my kids pay for college stresses me out. However, last year my rating increased to 100% P&T qualifying my kids for this benefit. Although it probably will not cover all college expenses, I’m thrilled that my children will have this benefit to help defray some of their cost for college.

Benefit Overview

DEA Program provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents and survivors of certain veterans. Currently, the program offers up to 36 months of benefits. This number came down in August 1, 2018 when the monthly benefits were 45 months.  Listed are the ways a spouse and children (to include both adopted and step children) can be eligible for the DEA Program.

  • Service-member is rated 100% permanent and total for service-connected conditions
  • Service-member is on active duty and is likely to be discharged with a P&T rating
  • Service-member died in service
  • Service-member died of service-connected causes
  • Is currently missing in action or captured in the line of duty

Dependents can use their DEA Program benefits to pursue any degree or certificate program offered by a college or university.  They can also use the benefits for work training programs or apprenticeships. Finally, spouses can use the benefit to be reimbursed for the cost of correspondence courses.

Unlike the GI Bill, the DEA Program does not pay tuition to the institution where the program is being taken; they are paid directly to the dependent using the program. Also, the DEA Program doesn’t cover the cost of tuition in entirety as in most situations using the GI Bill. In fact, dependents using Chapter 35 may likely to occur charges that exceed the funds provided by the benefits.

As of October 1, 2018, the DEA Program offers the following monthly allowances:

  • Full-time Coursework: $1224
  • Three-Quarter Coursework: $967
  • Half-Time Coursework: $710

Timeframe for Use

Children eligible for this benefit must be between the ages of 18 and 26 years old. There are situations that may allow dependents to begin before being 18 years old such as if the child is in a dual high school/college program.

Typically, the scenario that allows a dependent child to use the benefit after 26 years old is if that person served on active duty.  Since the child is ineligible to use DEA Program while serving, they can get extend their Chapter 35 benefits by the same number of years served on active duty. However, the extension normally does not go beyond 31 years old.

As stated, the DEA Program is not just for dependent children. Spouses are also eligible to use this program.  If eligible based off of the veteran’s service-connected rating, the normal timeframe for when a spouse can use this benefit is 10 years from the effective date of rating. However, if the effective date of the 100% P&T rating was within three years of discharge or retirement, the spouse’s eligibility is good for 20 years from the effective date of rating. The additional 10 years is great for a spouse who may be looking to use the benefits sometime later in life.

How to Enroll

Like most VA benefits there are a number of ways to enroll. The obvious first way is for the dependent to fill out VA Form 22-5490, Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits and submit it to your VA Regional Office for processing. Note this should be the state where the dependent plans to enroll in school or receive the training at. You can also enroll in the program by completing the form at Vets.gov

If you are also currently enrolled in school, in addition to the VA Form 22-5940, you will have to submit VA Form 22-1999, VA Enrollment Certification as well.

Also, if you have begun receiving Chapter 35 benefits and you change schools and or your program you must notify the VA of this. You will be required to complete the VA Form 22-5495, Dependents’ Request for Change of Program or Place of Training.

Additional Services for Tutoring

Another benefit that dependents who are using Chapter 35 are eligible for all is tutoring services. To be eligible for this the dependent must be enrolled in a postsecondary program at the half-time or more level. The deficiencies must be in a course that is part of his or her approved program. To apply for tutoring services, the dependent can fill out VA Form 22-1990t, Application and Enrollment Certification for Individualized Tutorial Assistance. The current rate for tutoring services may not exceed $100 per month and has a maximum benefit amount of $1200.

In closing, the Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program is a great benefit for dependents of those Veterans who are rated at 100% P&T. Chapter 35 may or may not cover the entire cost of a program but it can definitely help with paying for school. It’s super important for a veteran to be knowledgeable of all the benefits available to them and their family members especially this one if they qualify for it. As always, if you have any questions regarding the claims process and or eligibility of this program don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Allen Magtibay is apart of VA Claims Insider Team and a retired Army Disabled Veteran. You can contact him at [email protected]

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