Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) - Chapter 35


Jim: Happy New Years!!! My questions are in reference to Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) chapter 35 program. After several calls to the VA's 1-800 number and having numerous conversations with different VA personnel providing different answers/information about the DEA chapter 35 program, I'm more confused then ever. I have several questions.

  • Within the next three years, I will have three kids heading to college and wanted to confirm that each of them will be eligible for the program?
  • In addition, my spouse will be returning to college. Will she be eligible for the program at the same time as my kids are in college?
  • Last question, do I need to remove my dependents from the VA awards letter?
    I've received mixed messaging from the 1-800 VA personnel (some say yes/some say no) about this question. Some have explained if any dependent (child and/or spouse) go to college using the DEA program; the Veteran must remove those dependents from their award letter because the Veteran cannot received both the dependent pay (over 18), and the dependent (kids and/or spouse) cannot receive the DEA program monthly stipend. The VA considers that action as double dipping requiring the Veteran to refund the VA. Of course, it makes no-sense as most things with the VA; creating confusion instead of clarity.

I was hoping you could shine some light on these matter. Thank you!!!


Jim's Reply:

I'd have to guess that if you continued asking VA those questions you'd continue to get confused answers since nobody anywhere has a clue what's up with education programs at VA.

Your spouse has about 10 years after you receive the benefit to use her piece of it. After that she would have to apply and petition VA for additional time. All your kids are eligible, no problems.

The allowance thing is important to VA. You're receiving a dependents allowance while they're at home. Once they're in college and no longer at home, they're going to use the C35-DEA and that replaces your dependents allowance and more so yes, that would be double dipping. If you don't cancel the dependents allowance VA will want it back as soon as they discover the mistake.

For the future...stay away from the toll free number. They aren't "VA representatives" full of knowledge and good cheer, the people you talk with are in a call center with a goal of getting you off the phone in less than 2 minutes. The VA toll free number is the cause of the vast amount of misinformation that circulates about veterans benefits. I did a challenge a few years back where we called the 800 number every day for a week and asked the same simple question. We got varied responses each time.

One of the best ways to get accurate info about DEA is to talk with financial counselors at the chosen colleges. They're usually up to date since they deal with it every day. Good luck.