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

Photo credit: Muhammad Rizwan. A young man wearing a graduation cap and gown smiles at the camera.

DEA provides education and training benefits to eligible dependents. 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 discharge for that disability. This change is effective December 23, 2006.

The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. Effective October 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. These benefits may be used for:

  • degree and certificate programs,
  • apprenticeships, and
  • on-the-job training

If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course.

Other factors to consider

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 eligiblity 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.

Please note that 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. This change is effective October 10, 2008, and no benefits may be paid for any training taken prior to that date. A spouse using DEA (of the Fry Scholarship) remains eligible to recieve DIC payments from VA.

For surviivng spouses of Servicemembers who died on active duty, benefits end 20 years from the date of death.

How to apply

Apply using VA form 22-5490. 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 started training, you can take your application to your school or employer. Ask them to comlete VA Form 22-1999 Enrollment Certification. Then send both forms to the VA.

More information

For more information, you can visit the VA's DEA website.


Last updated May 2018

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