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Military Spouses & Dependents

VA Education Benefits – Which One Is Right for You?


Did you know the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers a range of programs to help Veterans, servicemembers, and their qualified family members with financial assistance for higher education? It’s true. You can get help from the VA for paying college tuition, providing a housing allowance, finding the right school or training program, as well as career counseling.

The VA will determine your eligibility for its education benefits based on your active-duty service time. Each program has specific requirements, so be sure to compare VA education benefits on the VA website to see which programs apply to you.

The following is a summary of the two most common programs:

Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33)

The Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) provides financial support for education and housing to eligible individuals with at least 90 days of active-duty service after September 10, 2001, individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after at least 30 active-duty days, or a Veteran awarded a Purple Heart for service on or after September 11, 2001. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

This benefit offers up to 36 months for tuition and fees. That is 4 years of higher education tuition based on a 9-month school year. Benefit eligibility is based primarily on the length of service and can range from 40% to 100%.

Dependents Educational Assistance — DEA (Chapter 35)

Another VA educational program is the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA or “Chapter 35”). DEA provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain Veterans. Eligibility factors are:

  1. The Veteran or servicemember is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability
  2. The Veteran or servicemember died while on Active Duty or because of a service-connected disability.

Eligible spouses and children can receive up to 45 months of full-time or equivalent benefits for a college, technical or vocational degree programs. If the first use of the benefits was after August 1, 2018, you will receive 36 months of educational benefits.

Many colleges and universities have adopted policies granting in-state tuition rates for servicemembers, dependents, and survivors. However, the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act of 2021 requires the VA to disapprove courses at approved institutions that charge out-of-state tuition rates.

What if you qualify for more than one VA educational program?

You can use only one education benefit for a single period of service. Once you choose a benefit, you cannot switch to a different benefit for the same period of service. If you are not sure how to use your VA education benefits, the VA Education Call Center is available at 888-442-4551, Monday-Friday, 8:00am to 7:00pm ET, for any questions you may have about what will benefit you the most.

The VA also has a helpful GI Bill Comparison Tool.

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