Today, we are going to take a look at Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA), also called Chapter 35 Benefits, available to dependent children, spouses, and surviving spouses of certain veterans. VA regulations state that the purpose of DEA benefits is to “[provide] opportunities for education to children whose education would otherwise be impeded or interrupted because their veteran-parent suffers from a severe service-connected disability.” For a spouse or child of a veteran to be eligible for DEA benefits, the veteran must meet one of the following requirements:
- The veteran has a permanent and total disability resulting from a service-connected condition.
- The veteran died from a service-connected condition.
- The veteran died while evaluated as having a permanent and total disability resulting from a service-connected condition.
- The veteran died while in service.
- The veteran is listed as a Prisoner of War (POW).
- The veteran is listed as missing in action (MIA).
A dependent or spouse who is found to be eligible for DEA benefits is entitled to receive the benefits for up to 45 months. The amount of DEA benefits paid depends on the type of program for which they are used. To view current rates, please see here. The following programs are eligible for DEA benefits:
- College, business, technical or vocational courses
- High school diploma or GED
- Independent study or distance learning courses
- Correspondence courses (applicable only to spouses), apprentice/job training
- Remedial deficiency, and refresher training
- The cost of tests for licenses or other certifications needed to keep, find or advance in a job.
Before applying for anything with the VA, it is always helpful to be organized and prepared. You should have the following documents and information ready when you apply for DEA benefits:
- Application for Benefits: VA Form 22-5490
- Veteran’s VA file number and/or Social Security Number
- Veteran’s date of birth and branch of service
- Dependent children will need a copy of their birth certificate showing that the veteran is their parent. Stepchildren should bring a copy of the marriage certificate showing their parent is married to the veteran.
- A spouse should bring a copy of their marriage certificate
- If the veteran is living, bring a letter from the VA showing that the veteran is 100% permanently disabled or a letter from the VA stating the applicant is eligible for DEA benefits.
- If the veteran is deceased, bring a copy of the Death Certificate.
The Permanent and Total Requirement
When applying for DEA benefits, it is important to be certain that the veteran has a “total and permanent” rating. A rating of 100% is insufficient. Instead, the VA must make a finding that the veteran’s rating is total and permanent.
Without a finding by the VA that the veteran’s death was service connected or that the veteran’s service-connected condition is total and permanent, a dependent or spouse will not be eligible for DEA benefits.
However, if a dependent has not filed for DEA benefits because there has been no decision as to if the veterans death was service connected or whether his condition is total and permanent, the dependent or spouse can file within one year of the date of that decision. If the individual seeking DEA benefits files within that year time frame he or she is entitled to the benefits from the effective date the decision.
Retroactive DEA benefits are also available for dependent children who file within one year of their 18th birthday. When retroactive benefits are due in this scenario, the benefits will go back to the date of the child’s birthday.
I hope this gives you an idea as to if you are eligible for DEA benefits and helps guide you towards getting them if you are eligible.