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Education Benefits for Veterans — and Their Families

How service members may transfer GI Bill benefits to their dependents

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Several government programs offer education and career-training assistance to veterans and their families.

 | As a member of the military or veteran, you are eligible for several education and career-training benefits that you may use to pursue a degree or certificate yourself or pass along to members of your family. 

Education and Employment Programs

Post-9/11 GI Bill: Available to active duty personnel and veterans who served after Sept. 10, 2001, this bill provides up to 36 months of postsecondary-education benefits. You can use these benefits to pay for tuition and fees, books and supplies of up to $1,000, living expenses and other potential costs. While the benefit can be used at most public and private institutions, the payments for tuition and fees generally are capped at the maximum in-state undergraduate tuition and fees for a public university. 

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Transfer of Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits: Active duty personnel who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill also may be able to transfer the full 36 months or any unused education benefits from the program to their spouse, children or a combination of the two.

The Department of Defense (DoD) decides whether benefits can be transferred to your dependents, who then may apply for the benefits through the VA. Your beneficiaries must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) and be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer in order to receive the education benefits. There are also several eligibility criteria you must meet to transfer the benefits, including:

  • Have at least six years of military service at the time of DoD’s approval for benefits transfer, and agree to an additional four years of service.
  • Have at least 10 years of military service at the time of DoD’s approval and be precluded from serving that additional four years due to a standard policy set forth by your service branch or the DoD or statute, but agree to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by the policy or statute.
  • The transfer requests must be submitted and approved while you are still in the armed forces.

Survivors’ and Dependents Education Assistance (DEA) Program: Dependents of veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition are eligible for education and job-training opportunities through the DEA program. It is also available to dependents of veterans who died while on active duty or from a service-related condition. 

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The benefits under DEA can be used for a variety of postsecondary-degree or certificate programs, apprenticeships and on-the-job training. In some cases, this benefit will also cover remedial, deficiency and refresher courses, and spouses can use it to cover a correspondence course. Eligible students can receive DEA payments for up to 45 months, with monthly payments for full-time institutional training of $1,041. 

To be eligible for the DEA benefit, your dependent children must be between the ages of 18 and 26. However, if your child is over 18 and using DEA, he or she will not be eligible to also receive Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payments from the VA. Your spouse will be allowed to receive both DEA and DIC payments.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program: Family dependents who already receive DEA or other VA education benefits also are eligible for assistance with career training, vocational coaching and counseling through the VR&E program. Through this program, your family dependents can get career counseling, guidance on how best to access their benefits through the VA and other resources for their education and careers, as well as personalized and academic counseling. To access these benefits, your dependent must apply through his or her eBenefits account.

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