Chapter 35 - Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA)


Chapter 35 - Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA)

Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA) provides education and training benefits to eligible dependents of certain servicemembers and veterans. Read more about it here.
Photo credit: Muhammad Rizwan. A young man wearing a graduation cap and gown smiles at the camera.

What is the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA)?

The Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA) provides education and training benefits to eligible dependents of certain veterans and servicemembers.

The program offers up to 36 months of education benefits if the first use of benefits was after August 1, 2018 and 45 months if the first use of benefits was before August 1, 2018. DEA benefits may be used for:

  • College, business, technical, or vocational programs
  • Certification tests
  • Apprenticeships and on-the-job training
  • Tutorial assistance
  • Work study



Who is eligible?

To be eligible for the DEA Program, you must be the child or spouse of:

  • A veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability. 
  • 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 discharge for that disability.



Other factors to consider

Additional factors to consider when you are thinking of applying for and using DEA benefits:

  • 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.
    • This extension cannot generally go beyond your 31st birthday, but there are some exceptions.
  • A child over 18 years old using DEA will not be eligible to receive Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payments from VA. Receiving DEA payments bars a child from receiving DIC payments.
  • If you are a spouse, benefits end 10 years from the date the 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.
  • A spouse using DEA (of the Fry Scholarship) remains eligible to receive DIC payments from VA.
  • For surviving spouses of Servicemembers who died on active duty, benefits end 20 years from the date of death.



How do I apply?

You can apply for DEA benefits online, by mail, or in person at your VA regional office. Below is an explanation on how to apply through the different methods. You only need to apply once and can choose whichever method you prefer. 


  • Apply Online by going through the VA's online application process,

  • Apply By Mail using VA form 22-5490. After printing and filling out the form, mail it to your VA regional office. Be sure to check with the VA to make sure that your training program is covered.
    • If you have already started training, you can take your application to your school or employer. Ask them to complete VA Form 22-1999 for Enrollment Certification. Then send both your completed application form (VA form 22-5490) and enrollment certification form (VA form 22-1999) to the VA.

  • Apply In Person by going to your local VA regional office. You can find your regional office and someone there can assist you with your application. 



More information

For more information about the DEA program, eligibility, and applying for educational benefits, you can visit the VA's DEA website.