Understanding Survivor and Dependent Education Benefits
When you lose a serviceman in the line of duty, many aspects of your life may take a back seat. Finances need to be reassessed and quality of life reviewed. Sadly, as a result of the income loss, many families must curb their spending to keep the family afloat. Often, education spending is one of the first cuts made. However, it doesn’t have to be. Thanks to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program provides education benefits to the children and spouses of veterans who have been injured or died in the line of duty.
What is the DEA Program?
The program offers up to 45 months of monetary education assistance toward a degree or on-the-job training. The stipend is paid monthly and can be used for tuition at a college or university; technical or vocational school; test fees required to practice a trade; or online learning. Be aware that the stipend is a fixed monthly amount that does not typically cover full education costs. Most participants apply to multiple programs and scholarships to ensure their educational needs are met.
Who is eligible for the Program?
In order to qualify for this financial aid, you must be a survivor of a veteran parent or spouse that has died. Survivors of veterans that have been permanently disabled, as well as survivors to those that are missing in action, or were captured while serving, are also eligible.
Many eligible DEA applicants investigate and apply to complimentary benefit sources. Applicants are strongly encouraged to research their Fry Scholarship eligibility prior to committing to the DEA program. Often, the Fry Scholarship can be used for 100% full educational benefits for 36 months prior to utilizing DEA benefits. There are cases in which a survivor can qualify to use the two programs at the same time. It is best to contact the VA directly to understand eligibility and which benefit might be right for your particular educational situation.
How to Enroll in the DEA Program
As with any financial aid, you must submit an application. Be sure to check the VA website to confirm that the desired education program meets VA criteria. Use the GI Comparison Tool to assist in making this determination. This tool can also be used to help you understand which benefits might be available to you. To apply specifically to the DEA Program, VA form 22-5490 must be completed. This form should be submitted to the regional VA office in the state of the education institution you wish to attend.
If you have already started your educational program, there is still time to apply for DEA benefits. The same application form must be completed; however, your school must complete an additional form (VA Form 22-1999), as well.
Honoring your loved ones
It is hard to think about an education in the face of tragedy; however, it can be one of the best ways to honor the life of a serviceman. Pursing an education is a freedom and liberty they fought to protect. There is no better way to ensure their legacy, and your future, than to live your life and pursue your dreams. Fortunately, the military recognizes the sacrifice bestowed upon your family and has created a series of educational assistance programs and scholarships to ensure the future of your family.
Written by Brook Appelbaum