If you qualify for permanent and total disability due to a service-connected injury or illness, your spouse or dependent child may be able to get help paying for school or job training under a VA benefits program. The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program — which is also commonly referred to as Chapter 35 benefits or by the acronym DEA — cover a variety of educational programs including college, business school, and vocational training. The benefit may also be used for certification tests, apprenticeships and on-the-job training, tutorial assistance, and work study.

To be eligible, the service member must be permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability or died while on active duty or died as a result of a service-connected disability. The VA pays a monthly amount directly to the student for a maximum of 36 months.

Children may use their benefits between the age 18 and 26. Spouses of veterans who died on active duty are able to use DEA benefits up to 20 years from the date of a service member’s death or 10 years after a non-active duty death of a veteran. If the VA rated a veteran as permanently and totally disabled, with an effective date that’s 3 years after discharge, benefits are good for 20 years from that effective date.

To apply for DEA, applicants can determine their eligibility on the VA’s website. You will need your Social Security number, bank account direct deposit information, education, and military history and basic information about the educational institution you plan to attend or are currently attending. When applying for education benefits, dependents must also check with their school’s certifying official to ensure their program is approved for VA benefits. If the school is approved, the dependent can apply online or by mail using a Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits. The VA says a decision on eligibility usually comes within 30 days.

At Cuddigan Law it has been our honor to help our veterans get the benefits they have rightfully earned. We encourage you to visit our website, cuddiganlaw.com, where you will find an extensive library of blog articles and videos covering all aspects of VA disability.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska