VA Education Benefits: Dependents

VA education benefits for dependents include options under the GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon program, and scholarship funds. If you are a military dependent wondering what your options from the VA might be, much depends on the nature of the military member’s service, time spent in uniform, and what GI Bill program the member signed up for at the start of their military career.

If you are eligible for any of the programs listed here, you will need the military member’s proof of service, your own proof of status as a military dependent, and other documentation as required by each individual program. You may also be required to submit bank information in order to receive VA benefits via Direct Deposit.

VA Education Benefits For Dependents: The GI Bill Transfer Option

Those who signed up for and are qualified to use the Post 9/11 GI Bill have the option to transfer some or all of the time remaining on the GI Bill to a dependent. Both eligible spouses and dependent children researching higher education should consider the transfer option in addition to any other type of financial assistance available.

Transferring GI Bill benefits can be complicated for some who are transitioning out of military service and back into civilian life; VA rules state that transferring GI Bill benefits must be done while the military member is still in the service. And the VA official site reminds service members that the Department of Defense has the final say in who is eligible (or ineligible) to transfer these benefits.

Once GI Bill benefits have been transferred to a dependent, the recipient is still required to apply with the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to receive and use them. GI Bill transfer recipients must be enrolled in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (DEERS) and be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer to receive transferred benefits.

Who can transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefits to a military dependent? The service member must meet the following criteria:

  • 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
  • Transfers must be submitted and approved while the service member is still on duty.
  • Served a minimum of six years (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of transfer approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces.

Signing up for this does not affect the basic ability to apply for other types of VA dependent education options; some educational assistance programs may require you to have used up or otherwise be unable to use GI Bill benefits. Others may be viewed as a supplement to other education assistance open to you.

The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) Program

This VA program provides education and on-the-job training for eligible dependents of veterans with VA-rated medical issues deemed permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related condition. The program is also open to eligible dependents of veterans who died while on active duty or as a result of a VA-rated condition caused by or associated with military service.

45 months of education benefits maximum are available, but thanks to ruling updates, some may be eligible for as many as 81 months of GI Bill benefits “if they use the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance program in conjunction with an entitlement from other VA education programs” according to the VA official site.

DEA benefits may be available to the dependent children or spouses meeting the following criteria:

  • A Veteran who died or is permanently/totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability.
  • A Veteran who died from any cause while such permanent and total service-connected disability existed.
  • A service member missing in action or captured in line of duty by a hostile force.
  • A service member forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power.
  • A service member hospitalized (or getting outpatient treatment) for a service-connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged for that disability.

Other requirements include the following:

  • Dependent children must be between the ages of 18 and 26.
  • Some dependents can apply before age 18 and to continue after age 26 depending on circumstances.
  • Marriage does not prevent dependent children from applying.
  • Dependents serving in the military cannot apply for this benefit while on active duty. To pursue training after military service, your discharge must not be under dishonorable conditions.
  • Dependents in the military can apply to the VA for an extension of the eligibility period (see the age restrictions for dependent children above) by the number of months/days equal to active duty time.

The Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship

Fry Scholarships are offered to qualifying children and spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after September 10, 2001. This scholarship pays at the 100% level for a maximum 36 months of benefits. Dependent children are eligible once they turn 18 unless the dependent has graduated high school.

Dependent children may be married and according to, “A child may be married or over 23 and still be eligible. If they became eligible before January 1, 2013, their eligibility ends on their 33rd birthday. The age limitation is removed if the child became eligible on or after January 1, 2013”.

Eligible surviving spouses do not have a time limit to apply for a Fry Scholarship, but are no longer able to apply once remarried (where applicable).

Choosing Between The Fry Scholarship and DEA

Some won’t qualify for either the Fry Scholarship or the VA DEA program. Others may qualify for both, depending on circumstances. However, VA loan rules are set up to allow only one program to be used; applicants must make an “irrevocable election between the two programs” when applying.

In certain cases, a dependent may be technically able to apply for both programs but only one at a time can be used, and the maximum combined benefits are still capped at 81 total months of full-time learning total regardless.

Applying For VA Education Benefits For Dependents

To apply for any of the education benefits programs you see here, certain documentation will be required including discharge paperwork for the military member where applicable, or a statement of service from a currently-serving military member’s chain of command showing the military member is an active member in good standing.

You will also be required to supply Social Security Numbers, copies of military orders, dependent IDs, and school transcripts where applicable. In some cases, it may be required to show proof that you have been accepted into a learning program, apprenticeship, training, or college. You may need to submit paperwork to the nearest VA regional office, or fill out online forms and submit electronically where required.

You should also be prepared to supply bank information including routing numbers, account numbers, and address/phone information for your bank; this is so the VA (or the school, where applicable) can send your benefits payments to you once accepted into the program of your choice.

VA Benefits: Spouses & Dependents

When Americans join the United States military, their spouses and/or dependents are eligible for a wide range of benefits, allowances, education assistance, and more for the service member and family. The benefits available from the military are not quite the same as those offered to spouses and dependents from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA focuses much of their efforts in helping spouses and dependents of military members who have died or have been seriously injured in the line of duty as a result of military service, etc. This emphasis is narrower than the DoD benefits offered to servicemembers, but the list of programs includes a range of areas that can be helpful for family members.

Qualifying spouses, surviving spouses, and dependents of veterans or currently serving military members may be eligible for one or more important VA benefits. These benefit areas will have varying requirements, application time frames, and benefit duration.

VA Life Insurance Benefits for Surviving Spouses and Dependents

Military spouses are permitted to convert “spousal coverage under Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)” to an individual plan of insurance with a private insurance company within 120 days of the veteran’s separation from the military. This is permitted without proof of good health.

Those named as beneficiaries of all VA life insurance programs “receive a tax-free monetary death benefit” that has no restrictions on use. Furthermore, those named as a beneficiary under SGLI, VGLI, FSGLI spousal coverage, or TSGLI programs may use the VA’s Beneficiary Financial Counseling Services and Online Will Preparation Services which provide assistance without the need of hiring legal counsel.

The Department of Veterans Affairs also offers an Accelerated Benefit Option, for those with insurance coverage under SGLI and VGLI. Accelerated benefits allows “access to up to half of the value” of the applicable insurance policy if the member has a terminal illness and is diagnosed with fewer than nine months to live.

VA Disability Compensation for Spouses And Dependents

The Department of Veterans Affairs Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program offers monthly benefits to surviving spouses and dependents, “in recognition of the economic loss caused by a Servicemember’s death during military service, or by the death of a Veteran as a result of a service-connected disability” according to the VA.

These benefits may also be available under qualifying circumstances for the survivors of a veteran whose death is not service-connected if the veteran was VA-rated as being 100% disabled due to service-connected reasons.

VA DIC Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for VA DIC, a surviving spouse must be:

  • Married to a Servicemember who died as a result of military service
  • Married the Veteran before January 1, 1957 OR;
  • Had a child with the Veteran, AND lived together with the veteran continuously until the Veteran’s death or, if separated, was not at fault for the separation, AND is not currently remarried OR;
  • Married the Veteran within 15 years of discharge from the period of military service in which the cause-of-death disease or injury started or was aggravated OR;
  • Was married to the Veteran for at least one year

Surviving spouses who remarry on or after December 16, 2003, and on or after turning 57 years old are permitted to apply for and/or continue receiving DIC.

To qualify for VA DIC, a surviving dependent must be:

  • Not included on the surviving spouse’s DIC, AND
  • Unmarried, AND
  • Under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 23 and attending school.

VA DIC for Qualifying Dependent Parents

There is an additional program offering compensation to surviving dependent parents of servicemembers or Veterans if the veteran’s death is judged to be service-connected. This VA compensation program is known as Parents’ DIC and is income-based.

VA Education and Training Benefits for Spouses, Dependents, and Survivors

Education benefits are available to spouses and dependents. The Department of Veterans Affairs official site states that family members caring for service-disabled veterans may qualify for career counseling and skills training. Similar opportunities may also be available for dependents of a veteran who qualify for the VA Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program. Opportunities for qualifying family members include the following under the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program:

  • Personalized support – Receive academic counseling, re-adjustment assistance, and more may be available depending on need, resources, space available, etc.
  • Career Assistance – helping caregivers find the best career options based on ability and interest
  • Benefits coaching – Learn how to get the most mileage out of VA benefits and other resources

You can get help with an application for these benefits via your nearest VA Regional Office.

VA Health Benefits for Family Members of Veterans

According to the VA official site, certain qualifying circumstances make the family members of Veterans eligible for health benefits. These programs may reduce the cost of health care. In some cases, certain expenses may be eliminated entirely depending on the program and its funding.

These programs include, but may not be limited to the following:

  • Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)
  • Children of Women Vietnam Veterans (CWVV)
  • Spina Bifida (SB)
  • Foreign Medical Program (FMP)
  • Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFMP)
  • Caregiver

Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA)

CHAMPVA is a health care benefit program offering coverage for qualifying spouses, and dependents.

Dependents and spouses of veterans are eligible when the veteran:

  • Has a VA-rated service-connected medical condition making them permanently and totally disabled, or;
  • Was VA-rated as permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected condition at the time of death, or;
  • died of a service-connected medical condition, or;
  • died on active duty, and the dependents are not otherwise eligible for TRICARE benefits.

Children of Women Vietnam Veterans

This VA healthcare benefit program is an indemnity plan intended for children with certain birth defects born to women Vietnam Veterans. It offers reimbursement for medical care-related conditions associated with certain birth defects, except spina bifida which is a condition covered under a separate program (see below).

Qualifying criteria for this VA program includes:

  • Children whose biological mother is a Vietnam Veteran
  • Children conceived after the date on which the Veteran entered the Republic of Vietnam between February 28, 1961, and May 7, 1975
  • Children who have “one of the covered birth defects, as determined by the Veterans Benefits Administration” according to the VA.

VA Spina Bifida Program

VA provides benefits payment, vocational training, plus VA-financed health care benefits to “certain Korea and Vietnam Veterans’ birth children” diagnosed with spina bifida (SB). If you are the birth child of a Vietnam Veteran and have been diagnosed with spina bifida defined “as all forms or manifestations of spina bifida (except spina bifida occulta),” you may qualify.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, eligibility for this program requires a diagnosis of spina bifida “as the VA defines it.” This means any form of the condition except for spina bifida occulta. Speak to a physician if you are unsure whether your condition qualifies.