The Department of Veterans Affairs has plenty of great programs in place for Veterans and their families, and most of us have at least been briefed on these benefits or received a press release in the mail. That said, there are still VA programs that don’t get much press, but that can make a tremendous difference in the lives of those who are eligible. The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program, or DEA for short, is one such benefit.
Authorized by Chapter 35 of Title 38, U.S. Code, the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program is an education benefit that offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of two groups of Veterans: those who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition or those who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition.
The rest of this post is intended to pass along answers to some of the most common questions the Department of Veterans Affairs receives, such as the types of training available, payment rates, how payments are received, eligibility rules, and more. As with most benefits programs, things change from time to time (what’s authorized, what you’ll need to do in what order, etc.) and there are often exceptions to some of the rules and regulations; visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/DEA.asp for the most current information available.
DEA Eligibility. You must be the son, daughter, or spouse of:
…A Veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability. The disability must arise out of active service in the Armed Forces.
…A Veteran who died from any cause while such permanent and total service-connected disability was in existence.
…A Servicemember missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.
…A Servicemember forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
…A Servicemember who is hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability (effective Dec. 23, 2006.).
Additional notes on eligibility…
If you are a son or daughter and wish to receive benefits for attending school or job training, you must be between the ages of 18 and 26 (in certain instances, it is possible to begin before age 18 and to continue after age 26). Marriage is not a bar to this benefit. If you are in the Armed Forces, you may not receive this benefit while on active duty. To pursue training after military service, your discharge must not be under dishonorable conditions. VA can extend your period of eligibility by the number of months and days equal to the time spent on active duty. Typically, this extension cannot go beyond your 31st birthday, but there are some exceptions.
If you are a spouse, benefits end 10 years from the date VA finds you eligible or from the date of death of the Veteran. If VA rated the Veteran permanently and totally disabled with an effective date of three years from discharge, a spouse will remain eligible for 20 years from the effective date of the rating. For surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died on active duty, benefits end 20 years from the date of death.
Types of Assistance with DEA. Benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. The benefit provides a monthly payment to help cover the cost of getting a High School Diploma or GED; taking College, Business, Technical or Vocational Courses; completing Independent Study or Distance Learning courses; taking Correspondence Courses (Spouses Only); Apprenticeship/On-the-Job Training; Remedial, Deficiency, and Refresher Training (in some cases); and paying for the cost of tests for licenses or certifications needed to get, keep, or advance in a job.
You may receive up to 45 months of education benefits, if you began using the program before August 1, 2018. If you began your program on August 1, 2018 or after, you have 36 months to use your benefits. Effective Oct. 1, 2013, some DEA beneficiaries may be eligible for up to 81 months of GI Bill benefits if they use the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance program in conjunction with an entitlement from other VA education programs.
How much does the VA pay for this benefit? The amount the VA pays is based on the type of training program and training time (i.e. full-time, half-time, etc.). Benefits are paid monthly and in arrears, and if attendance is less than a month or less than full-time, payments are reduced proportionately. View current payment rates at
How to apply for your DEA benefit. To apply, take these steps (which vary, depending on your situation):
…Make sure that your selected program is approved for VA training. Take a look at their GI Bill Comparison Tool for more information. VA can inform you and the school or company about the requirements.
…You can apply online or by completing VA Form 22-5490, Dependents Application for VA Education Benefits. Send it to the VA regional processing office with jurisdiction over the state where you will advance your education and training. If you are a son or daughter, under legal age, a parent or guardian must sign the application. If you are eligible for both DEA and Fry, you will be required to make an irrevocable election unless you are a child of a Servicemember who died in the line-of-duty prior to August 1, 2011.
…If you have started your educational program, take your application to your school or employer. Ask them to complete VA Form 22-1999, Enrollment Certification, and send both forms to VA. (Note: Schools must contact their VA representative to receive this form.)
While we’ve tried to pass along just some basic information about the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program to help increase awareness, there is so much more detail to DEA that will affect and impact how it might benefit any given Survivor or Dependent that chooses to use it. I’ll reiterate that details of programs like this change quite often…please check with the Department of Veterans Affairs for the latest details about the benefits you have coming to you.