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

Daniel S. & Jackson M.

If your partner or parent is a Veteran or servicemember who has died, is captured or missing, or has disabilities, you may be eligible for educational assistance you didn’t even know existed. While the GI Bill is a household word for military families, not everyone knows about the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) program, another ticket to an affordable college education or job training.

Education Benefits for Survivors and Dependents

As a military family faces a sad chapter in life, education benefits are likely the last thing on their mind. Unfortunately, that means that Veterans’ survivors and dependents may miss out on the college education and job training assistance they so richly deserve. The DEA program and Fry Scholarship are two of the most valuable benefits available to them. Survivors and dependents who meet the criteria for these programs can get tens of thousands of dollars a year to help them achieve their educational goals and a higher quality of life.

Two Types of Educational Assistance Programs

Even if you qualify for both the DEA (Chapter 35) program and the Fry Scholarship, you will need to pick one or the other. It’s important to learn all the facts about each, because once you make this choice, you can’t switch to the other program later. Here are the facts you need to know as you make this important decision.

The Fry Scholarship: Formally known as the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship, it provides education benefits to children and surviving partners of certain Veterans. If your partner or parent died in the line of duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, while serving in one of the Armed Forces, or was a member of the Selected Reserve who died from a service-connected disability, you may qualify for this benefit. Visit va.gov to find out if you’re eligible for education benefits through this scholarship. If so, you may receive up to 36 months of benefits, including money for tuition, housing, books, and supplies. Visit va.gov for information on the rates for school and training programs, on-the-job training and apprenticeships, and testing fees.

The DEA program: It offers education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition, or who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition, or who are missing or captured. You may receive up to 36 months of benefits if you began using the program on or after Aug. 1, 2018. If you started using the program before that date, you may receive up to 45 months of education benefits, which may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and correspondence courses. Remedial, deficiency, or refresher courses also may be covered, depending on the circumstances. Visit va.gov for information on the current rates and how they’re determined.

Who is Eligible for Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance?

Veterans’ and servicemembers’ family members eligible for assistance include partners, sons and daughters, stepchildren, and adopted children.

DEA Rules for Children and Spouses
  • To be eligible, you must be the child or spouse of a:
  • A Veteran who died or is permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability arising from active service in the armed forces.
  • A Veteran who died from any cause while having a permanent and service-connected disability.
  • A Servicemember missing in action or captured in the line of duty by a hostile force.
  • A Servicemember forcibly detained or interned in the 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.

Veterans include reservists, and National Guard members who are activated for federal service or who die/become disabled while on training status. Commissioned officers of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also considered to be Veterans after they’re discharged. For more information, visit benefits.gov and Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance at va.gov.

What Can DEA Benefits be Used For?

You can receive benefits for a wide variety of training, everything from college degree programs and certificate programs to apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Here are a few details:

  • Degree programs, undergraduate and graduate, at colleges or universities, including cooperative training programs, full-time programs that alternate school instruction and training in a business or industry.
  • Certificate programs at colleges, universities, and other degree-granting institutions, such as business, technical, or vocational schools.
  • Accredited independent study programs that may be offered through distance education.
  • Apprenticeships or on-the-job training (OJT) programs offered by companies or unions. These programs can offer an alternative to college or a vocational school to help you gain experience in a field that interests you.
  • Other programs include correspondence courses (for spouses or surviving spouses), farm cooperative courses, and preparatory courses for college or graduate school entrance exams.
woman jogging on a path

How do I Apply for the DEA Program?

To apply, your first step is to contact your school’s certifying official to make sure your program is approved for VA benefits. Afterward, you can apply for VA education benefits for dependents online or apply by mail. To apply by mail, you’ll need to fill out a Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits (VA Form 22-5490) and mail it to the regional processing office for your state. You’ll find the office’s address on the last page of the form.

If you have more questions about the survivors and dependents educational assistance (DEA) program, please contact NU’s Veterans Affairs Office here.

DEA (Chapter 35) FAQs

You can only use one of these programs, and keep in mind you can’t change to the other program after you choose one.

As a child dependent, you can receive benefits from age 18 to 26.

Yes, you can receive both FAFSA and VA educational benefits.

According to Vets First, “Degree programs, undergraduate and graduate, at colleges or universities, including cooperative training programs and accredited Page 18 independent study programs that may be offered through distance education.