In addition to the GI Bill, the VA provides education benefits for qualifying dependents and survivors of Veterans through Chapter 35 benefits. These benefits are in the form of the Fry Scholarship and Dependents Education Assistance. The two benefits are both for dependents, but there are differences. The Fry Scholarship applies specifically to the children or spouses of Active-Duty Service Members who died in the line of duty on or after Sept 11, 2001. It also applies to children or spouses of members of the Selected Reserve who died on or after Sept 11, 2001.
The Dependents Education Assistance, however, is available to dependents of a Veteran who died on active duty. It is also available to spouses of those who died as a result of service-connected conditions. In addition, it is available to qualified dependents of Veterans who are permanently and totally disabled.
A dependent may be eligible for both the Fry Scholarship and the DEA. If that is the case, the dependent must decide which benefit to utilize. After the beneficiary makes the decision, they cannot change to the other program. The only exception to this is for a child of a Service Member who died in the line of duty before August 1, 2011. They are eligible for both benefits and may receive up to 81 months of education and training.
We will examine each of these benefits in turn, beginning with the Fry Scholarship.
Dependents may be eligible for the Fry Scholarship if they are the child or surviving spouse of a Service Member who died under the following conditions.
- A member of the Armed Forces who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001
- A member of the Selected Reserve who died from a service-connected disability on or after September 11, 2001
Children of the Service Member
For children of a Service Member, it depends on when they turned 18. If the child turned 18 or graduated from High School before January 1, 2013, they can qualify for and use the Fry Scholarship until they turn 33. However, if they turned 18 or graduated from High School after January 1, 2013, they can qualify for and use the Fry Scholarship at any age. There is no age limit.
IF the child is a child of a member of the Selected Reserve who died from a service-connected disability while they were not on active duty, the child can qualify for and use the Fry Scholarship at any time. There is no age limit.
Note that Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) cannot be received at the same time. If the child is receiving DIC, they won’t be able to while using the Fry Scholarship.
As the surviving spouse of a Service Member, a beneficiary is still eligible to receive DIC payments while using the Fry Scholarship. However, if they remarry, they will no longer be eligible to utilize the Fry Scholarship.
Benefits of the Fry Scholarship
If a survivor qualifies for the Fry Scholarship, they may be able to receive up to 36 months of benefits. These benefits include money for tuition (full tuition for in-state public schools and up to $22,805.34 for private or out-of-state schools). They may also be eligible to receive a housing stipend and money for books and supplies.
In order to apply, beneficiaries must choose a school. They can use the VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool to compare different schools and are advised to contact their chosen school to verify that the program they want to take is approved for VA benefits. Once they know which school and program they wish to attend, they can apply online here.
Dependent’s Educational Assistance (DEA) Program
In order to qualify for DEA benefits, the Veteran and the dependent must meet certain criteria.
- Permanently and totally disabled (100% P&T VA rating), OR
- Died while on active duty or as the result of a service-connected disability, OR
- Is missing in action or was captured in line of duty, OR
- Was forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign power, OR
- Service Member who is in the hospital or getting outpatient treatment is will likely be discharged due to that disability
Child of Veteran / Service Member requirements:
- Married or unmarried, between the ages of 18 and 26 (except in certain cases)
If a Veteran’s child is over 18 and utilizing DEA, they cannot receive DIC.
If a Veteran’s child joins the military, they cannot utilize DEA while on active duty. In order to use the benefit after service they must have a discharge that is not dishonorable. And, active duty service can extend a dependents eligibility but not usually past age 31.
Spouse of Veteran / Service Member
A surviving spouse is eligible to receive DIC payments and utilize DEA at the same time.
Chapter 35 benefits begin on the day that the VA determines a spouse qualifies for them, OR on the date of the Veteran’s death, and lasts for 10 years.
If the Veteran is determined to be 100% Permanent & Total 3 years or more after discharge, the spouse qualifies for benefits for 20 years after that date.
If the Service Member died on active duty, the surviving spouse has benefits which end 20 years from the date of death.
Chapter 35 benefits pay for up to 36 months for education. The benefit comes as a monthly payment paid directly to the dependent to help cover the cost of education in the form of:
• College or graduate degree programs
• Career-training certificate course
• Educational and/or career counseling
In order to apply, beneficiaries must choose a school. The VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool is useful for comparison of different schools and programs. Beneficiaries can use the tool to see if the program is approved for Chapter 35 benefits. Prospective students who have already decided on a school and program are advised to contact their chosen school to verify that the program they want to take is approved for VA benefits. Once they know which school and program they wish to attend, they can apply online here.
If a Veteran or dependent has any questions about Chapter 35 benefits, they can contact the VA through the online tool known as Ask VA by choosing the GI Bill Help Portal. Alternatively, they can call the GI Bill hotline at 888-442-4551.
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