The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers several educational programs. The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (Chapter 35) Program offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents and survivors.
How Does an Individual Qualify?
Some of the ways a dependent (including stepchild or adopted child) or survivor may qualify for Chapter 35 benefits are as follows:
- the veteran is rated permanently and totally disabled due to a
service related condition(s); or,
- the veteran was rated permanently and totally disabled due to a
service related condition(s) at their time of death and whom died
from any cause, either service or non-service related; or,
- when the veteran’s death was due to a service connected
- Chapter 35 benefits may also be extended to survivors of active
duty service members who died as a result of military service.
Note: Please be aware this is not an exhaustive list. See the following webpage for more information: https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/DEA.asp
Who’s Eligible to Receive Benefits?
Eligible dependents include: spouse, son or daughter (including step-child or adopted child) of a qualifying veteran or service member. In the case of children, eligibility begins on their 18th birthday and generally ends when the child reaches the age of 26. Dependent children do not lose eligibility if they marry. Under certain circumstances, eligibility can be extended to their 31st birthday.
Eligibility for a spouse or a surviving spouse is generally 10 years from the effective date of a veteran’s permanent and total rating or the date the VA notifies the veteran of a permanent and total disability. The spouse can choose between the two dates to establish the effective date. A spouse using DEA remains eligible to receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payments from VA.
What can Chapter 35 Benefits be used for?
Benefits may be used in the pursuit of an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree at colleges and universities; independent study; cooperative training; study abroad; certificate or diploma from business, technical, or vocational schools; apprenticeships; on-the-job training programs; farm cooperative courses; preparatory courses for tests required or used for admission at an institution of higher learning or graduate school; degree and certificate programs, graduate school, institutions of higher learning, and on the job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Beneficiaries without high school diplomas can pursue secondary schooling, and those with a deficiency in a subject may receive tutorial assistance if enrolled half-time or more. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved.
Not all educational programs or pursuits qualify for Chapter 35 benefits. Some examples of training restrictions include bartending; non-accredited independent study courses; courses given by radio; self-improvement courses; courses recreational in character; audited courses; courses that do not lead to an educational, professional or vocational objective; courses successfully completed in the past; and federal government employee – courses taken under the Government Employees’ Training Act.
Also, an individual may not receive Chapter 35 benefits while on active duty; when convicted of a felony; and fugitive felon, which includes an outstanding warrant for a felony or the violation of a condition of probation or parole for committing a felony. These apply to the veteran, child, spouse or survivor.
Generally, dependents are awarded entitlement of 45 months under the current Chapter 35 program. However, H.R. 3218, the “Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017”, amended Title 38, United States Code (U.S.C.), decreasing the amount of entitlement from the current 45 months to 36 months. This change applies to those who submit an application for Chapter 35 benefits after August 1, 2018. This legislation increases the amounts of education assistance payable for pursuit of institutional courses and courses under the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program. Eligible persons will be entitled to monthly payments of $1,224.00 for full-time work, $967.00 per month for three-quarter time, and $710.00 for half-time work. This increase will become effective October 1, 2018.
Ready to Apply for Chapter 35?
To apply for Chapter 35 benefits, the dependent/survivor can submit an application on-line at www.GIBILL.va.gov and click to apply for benefits. The printed VA form 22-5490 can be sent to your nearest VA Regional Office or PVA National Service Office for submission. This form can be obtained from any PVA National Service Office or from the VA website, www.va.gov.
Once a determination is made of eligibility, a “Certificate of Eligibility” will be sent to the dependent. The dependent must take this certificate to the certifying official at the school where the dependent is currently attending. The school official then certifies enrollment, informing VA to the dependent’s enrollment in an approved program.
The VA Education Center can approve advance payment in some cases. Those in receipt of Chapter 35 benefits have a responsibility to notify VA of any changes in enrollment, address or marital status to avoid possible overpayment. The toll free number is 1-888-442-4551 or go to the website www.GIBILL.va.gov, for more information. You may also contact any VA Regional Office, VA Medical Center or Vet Center, Education Service Officer at a military base, or your local Paralyzed Veterans of America National Service Officer, for assistance.
The preceding was adapted from an original work composed by Paralyzed Veterans of America Senior National Service Officer, Raymond Pease, located at the Muskogee, Oklahoma Service Office.
If you are a veteran or spouse interested in vocational counseling and job placement assistance free of charge, please visit www.pva.org/veterans-employment to learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Paving Access for Veterans Employment (PAVE) program.