Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance

VA Chapter 35 is a helpful program provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Under this program, also known as the Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) program, children and spouses of veterans and servicemembers may be eligible to receive help paying for their tuition in certain degree and training programs.

In addition to Chapter 35 VA benefits, some spouses and dependents may find that they are eligible for other assistance programs such as the Fry Scholarship. However, eligible individuals are usually not able to receive payments from more than one type of educational assistance program at one time. In cases where a dependent or spouse is eligible for more than one program, he or she will usually need to decide between the programs and only use one. Furthermore, participating in DEA Chapter 35 may make a dependent ineligible to receive other benefits, such as Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Therefore, it is important to understand which dependents educational assistance program will provide the best benefits before applying.

Eligibility for VA Chapter 35 Benefits

To receive Chapter 35 education benefits, you must meet a variety of criteria. Most importantly, you must be the child or spouse of a veteran or service member who:

  • Died or has become totally and permanently disabled as a result of a service-related disability sustained while actively serving.
  • Died from any cause while he or she had a permanent and total service-related disability.
  • Is missing in action or has been captured by a hostile force in the line of duty.
  • Was forcibly detained by a foreign power or government while he or she was in the line of duty.
  • Is hospitalized or undergoing outpatient treatment for a permanent and total service-related disability that will likely result in him or her being discharged from service.

Furthermore, to get VA education benefits chapter 35 participants must be between 18 and 26 years old. However, under special circumstances, benefits may begin prior to a beneficiary turning 18 years old and last beyond 26 years of age. Beneficiaries will not lose their eligibility if they get married or divorced.

Other Eligibility Factors to Consider for DEA Chapter 35

It is possible to be dually eligible for VA dependents educational assistance and other programs, such as the Fry Scholarship. Under most circumstances, you cannot receive benefits from both programs, and you will need to make an irrevocable decision between the two benefits. The only instance in which you can receive both the Fry Scholarship and VA chapter 35 benefits is if you are the child of a veteran who died prior to August 1, 2011. In such cases, you can receive benefits from both programs, but you can only use one program at a time. Furthermore, you cannot receive more than 81 months of payments from the Fry Scholarship and the DEA combined.

Related Article: Yellow Ribbon Program  

It is also important to note that a participant cannot receive DEA chapter 25 benefits while on active duty if he or she decides to join the Armed Forces. However, a student may receive an extension that lasts for the same number of months or days that the participant was on active duty service. For example, a student may receive a three-year extension if he or she was enlisted in the Armed Forces for three years. In such cases, extensions cannot usually go beyond when a beneficiary turns 31.

How to Apply for Chapter 35 Education Benefits

You must submit VA Form 22-5490 (Dependents Application for VA Education Benefits) or apply online to have your eligibility evaluated. If you plan on applying with a paper form, you must submit it to the VA regional office that has jurisdiction over the area where your school or training program is located. Before applying, it is important that you make sure that VA Chapter 35 covers your educational program or training course. You may wish to compare different programs under the GI Bill if your program is not eligible for benefits.

It is possible to apply for Chapter 35 VA benefits if you are already enrolled in school or a training program. In such cases, you must take your VA Form 22-5490 application to your school administrator. Next, ask the administrator to complete VA Form 22-1999 (Enrollment Certification), which can be obtained by contacting a VA representative. Once complete, Forms 22-5490 and 22-1999 must be sent to the VA regional office in your area.

How long can you receive VA Chapter 35?

The length of time you can receive Chapter 35 VA benefits will depend on when you first applied for the program. You can receive up to 36 months of benefits if you began using the program on or after August 1, 2018. However, if you were enrolled in the program prior to this date, you can receive benefits for up to 45 months. This change became effective after the Forever GI Bill was signed into law in August 2017.

If you are an eligible spouse of a veteran or servicemember, you also have to use your benefits within a designated timeframe, which varies depending on your circumstances. If your spouse passed away while on active duty, you have 20 years in which to use your benefits. However, if your spouse passed due to any other cause, you have 10 years from the date of his or her passing (or the date that the VA declares you eligible) to use your benefits. In the event that your spouse was declared permanently and totally disabled, you also have 20 years to use your benefits from the date that the disability rating was declared.

Benefit Amounts under DEA Chapter 35

The amount of benefits you can receive under VA Chapter 35 varies based on your enrollment status in school or a training program. It is important to note that the benefit amounts are updated each October in order to reflect annual tuition increases. As of 2018, you can currently receive the following amounts based on your enrollment:

Enrollment or Training Status Monthly Benefit Amount
Full-time $1,224.00
¾ time $967.00
½ time $710.00
Less than ½ time but more than ¼ time $710.00
¼ time or less $306.00


How to Use Benefits for VA Chapter 35

Your VA Chapter 35 benefits can be used for a variety of training programs and educational paths. Once you are approved for assistance, it is common to pursue a degree or certificate. You are also allowed to use your benefits for apprenticeships or on-the-job training. Under certain circumstances, the VA may allow you to use your benefits when paying for a remedial, deficiency or refresher class. As a spouse of a veteran or servicemember, you may also be allowed to take a correspondence course with your benefits.

Related Article: Veterans Educational Assistance

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