The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides educational benefits for dependents and survivors of military veterans and service members. Under the VA’s Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program, an eligible dependent can receive up to 45 months of benefit payments for various educational and training opportunities.


The VA provides assistance for eligible dependents and survivors for a wide range of training and educational opportunities including college, vocational, business or technical courses; high school diplomas or GEDs; degree and certificate programs; distance learning courses; on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs; and certain remedial, refresher and deficiency training courses. Spouses are also eligible to take correspondence courses. Benefits may also be used to pay for the cost of licensing and certification tests that are required to obtain, retain or advance in a job.


Eligible beneficiaries include spouses and dependent children of veterans who died during active duty in military service or as a result of a service-connected disability, who are permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability, who are missing in action or captured in the line of duty and being held by hostile force, or who are being forcibly detained or interned by a foreign government or power. As of 2006, eligible beneficiaries also included spouses and dependent children of service members who are hospitalized or being treated for a service-connected disability and are likely to be discharged for a permanent and total disability.

Length of Eligibility

Eligible spouses and dependent children have a time limit to use educational benefits provided under the VA’s DEA program. Children may receive benefits as long as they are between the ages of 18 and 26. In certain circumstances, some children may receive benefits before age 18 and continue receiving benefits after age 26. Spouses and surviving spouses have 10 years from the date the VA establishes eligibility to use their benefits. Spouses of veterans who died while on active duty have 20 years from the date of death to use their benefits.

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How to Apply

After finding a VA-approved educational or training program, complete VA Form 22-5490, Application for Survivor’s and Dependents’ Education Assistance form, and submit it to the appropriate regional VA office. Applicants may also apply online at the Veterans ON-line APPlication (VONAPP) website. Veterans and their beneficiaries who have previously filed an application may only use VONAPP if they want to change their current program or school.


The actual benefit amount depends on the type of program and length of training time. For example, effective October 2009, the VA paid $925 a month for full-time training at an approved institution. Payments for programs that are less than a month or less than full-time are reduced proportionately.