Chapter 35 Benefits – The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

Chapter 35 Benefits – The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing


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 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.


Until next time…

Signed into Law: The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

Signed into Law: The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

Patricia Kime, writer for, reported early last Wednesday that after decades of negotiations, President Donald Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law late Tuesday.

The sailors, Marines and other service personnel who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam have been fighting for the passing of H.R. 299 for decades. Before this legislation, the specific diseases connected to Agent Orange exposure exposure were recognized only for ground troops. This new law extends that recognition to all those who served off of the coast of the Republic of Vietnam and Cambodia between January 1962 and May 1975.

This change in legislation stands to benefit an estimated 90,000 veterans who were exposed to the chemical herbicide agent produced by Monsanto in the 1960’s. The medical conditions of these veterans who served off the coastline will now receive the same considerations as ground troops and will have their disability compensation fast-tracked. Agent Orange-associated illnesses range from respiratory cancers to Parkinson’s, heart disease and certain types of diabetes. 

Veterans who have previously had claims denied are now eligible to resubmit along with those who were deployed in the Korean Demilitarized Zone from 9/1/67-8/31/71. An additional group covered by this new legislation is the children of veterans who served in Thailand from 1/62-5/75 who were born with spina bifida. 

Not everyone is celebrating this new legislation. The Military-Veterans Advocacy group has some significant concerns about the wording of H.R. 299. The bill covers Blue Water veterans that were up to 12 miles off the shores of Vietnam and Cambodia. The concern of the Military-Veterans Advocacy group is for the Blue Water veterans who are outside of this perimeter of the predetermined area but still within the South China sea and subject to the waters and chemical runoff of the heavily impacted Mekong River. Military-Veterans Advocacy has previously filed a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of the Blue Water veterans over the denial of benefits. 

Rep. Mark Takano, (Democrat, CA) is one of the original drafters of the legislation. He also chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Takano has been quoted as saying that Congress has now “righted a terrible injustice.”

“We can finally tell the tens of thousands of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War but wrongly denied benefits that justice is finally coming.” 

While the signing of the legislation should absolutely be viewed as a victory for all Blue Water veterans, this win does not mean the end of the war. Provisions are now in place for tens of thousands of additional veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. However, the work is not complete until every benefit is available to every exposed veteran, no questions asked.  

With additional benefits come additional costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these changes could cost as much as $1.1 billion over 10 years but the Department of Veterans Affairs has a much higher estimate of $5.5 billion. Non-disabled veterans can expect additional fees on VA-supported home loans (less than a percentage point).