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Education Benefit

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News October 2015

It seems like you need a college degree to learn how to pay for college for yourself or family member

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Whether it’s a big state university, a small private school or a local community college, it’s no secret how expensive higher education is today. It seems like you need a college degree to learn how to pay for college for yourself or family member.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a number of programs to financially help military veterans go to college, but it also provides an educational program to help a spouse or child go to college.
The Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program, sometimes called Chapter 35, provides help for a veteran’s dependent spouse, surviving spouse or children, including adopted children and/or stepchildren.
Here’s a condensed look at this valuable educational benefit.

Training

Chapter 35 helps veterans’ dependents obtain college degrees, attend training programs, pursue independent study programs or certificate programs at VA-approved institutions.   
The benefit will also help pay for apprenticeships. Chapter 35 includes reimbursement for the costs of licensing and certification tests.

Veteran Eligibility

To be eligible, the veteran must be either entitled to a 100% service connected disability compensation or to Individual Unemployability benefits and have a disability that’s considered to be permanent and total in nature, or have passed away because of his or her service-connected disability.
This benefit can also be used 
by the families of an active-duty military member who is currently a prisoner of war (POW) or is missing in action (MIA).  

Children’s Eligibility

Children of qualified veterans should typically apply for Chapter 35 benefits at age 18 and no later than age 26. There are some cases, however, where children can apply and begin the program before age 18 and 
continue after 26.
Marriage won’t affect dependent children’s eligibility for the educational benefit.

Spouse Eligibility

Spouses who become eligible because of their husband’s/wife’s disability can use the benefit for 10 years from the effective dates of the veteran’s total and permanent disability evaluation.
Spouses of active-duty military members who are POWs or MIA are eligible for the benefit beginning on the 91st day after the service member is listed as missing or held captive.
If the service member is determined to be alive and not missing, the spouse’s eligibility ends on that particular date. If a spouse is enrolled in college or other types of training when the discovery is made, the eligibility can always be extended to the end of the academic term.  

Divorce

When the marriage to a qualified veteran ends in divorce, the eligibility for Chapter 35 benefits ceases to exist on the date the divorce is finalized with few exceptions.
One of these exceptions occurs when the spouse can prove to the VA that the divorce occurred through no fault of his or her own.

Surviving Spouse

Surviving spouses of veterans who died as a result of a service-connected disability can elect the beginning date for the 10-year eligibility for Chapter 35 benefits.
The dates must be between two events: the date of death, and the date the VA determines that the death was because of service-connected disability.
If the husband or wife died while serving on active duty, the eligibility period for the benefit is approximately 20 years from the date of death.  

Remarriage

If a surviving spouse remarries before the age of 57, eligibility will end on the date of the new marriage.
The educational benefits can be reinstated, but only if remarriage occurred after Nov. 30, 1999, and the remarriage ends because of divorce, death or because spouses are no longer living together.  

Chapter 35 & Other Benefits

Chapter 35 will have no affect on other VA benefits received by a dependent child, spouse or surviving spouse.
Dependent children of a deceased veteran eligible for death benefits and also receiving Chapter 35 benefits will have the additional amount paid for being a dependant under the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation stopped.

Applying

To apply for Chapter 35 benefits, complete VA Form 22-5490 (Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits).
This form can be obtained from your local Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) office or at va.gov/vaforms. A copy of the veteran’s DD (Department of Defense) Form 214 (military discharge) will be required along with a copy of a college schedule and registration.  
Once Chapter 35 benefits have been approved and a recipient is enrolled in college or other educational program, it’s a good idea he or she become acquainted with the VA advisors located at most colleges nationwide.
The advisors are college employees who certify enrollment every month to the VA. The advisors will handle issues with the college, classes and all VA paperwork.   
For more information, visit pva.org or contact a PVA National Service Officer (NSO) from the PVA Service Office Roster on page 48.
Raul Acosta is a NSO in Miami and won the 2014 Victor S. McCoy Award for Excellence

 

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