Education Assistance

Surviving spouses and children are eligible for up to 45 months of education benefits under the VA's Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program. Education benefits may be used in pursuit of associate, bachelor, or graduate degrees; courses leading to a certificate or diploma from business, technical or vocational schools; apprenticeships and various other educational programs. Benefits may also be paid to a child over age 14 with a physical or mental disability that impairs the pursuit of a regular education program for special restorative training to lessen or overcome the impairment.

Beginning July 1, 2005, the surviving spouse of a service member killed on active duty has an extended eligibility for education benefits of up to 20 years after the date of the member's death. Surviving spouses of military retirees or veterans who die of service-connected causes have 10 years after the member's death to use their education benefits. Children are normally eligible to receive educational benefits between their 18th and 26th birthdays. The current monthly education benefit is $915 a month per recipient for full time attendance at an educational facility. The education benefit has been increased from time to time but is not automatically adjusted annually for cost of living increases. The most recent rate information is available on the VA website.

Children of active duty service members who died on active duty since September 11, 2001 are eligible for the "Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry" Scholarship, included in the final 2009 Supplemental Appropriations bill. The scholarship expands the current GI Bill education benefit to cover the full cost of a college education for all children of fallen service members.

How the Fry Scholarship Changes GI Bill Benefits:

  • Amends GI Bill, so that children of active duty service members who have died on active duty since 9-11-01 qualify for the education benefit
  • The full benefit is extended to each dependent child and does not impose a minimum service requirement to qualify
  • All children of fallen service members are eligible to receive the maximum benefit under GI Bill immediately
  • Benefit expires 15 years after the 18th birthday of surviving military children

In August of 2014, the Fry Scholarship was extended to eligible surviving spouses of active duty service members who died on active duty since September 11, 2001 through the passage of the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. The Fry Scholarship will entitle eligible spouses to up to 36 months of the full, 100-percent level of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes a tuition-and-fee payment, a monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies. Unremarried surviving spouses are eligible to use the scholarship up to 15 years after the date of death of their service member. Spouses do have to make an irrevocable election of either the VA Dependents Education Allowance(DEA) or the Fry Scholarship for terms beginning on or after January 1, 2015. See the VA fact sheet for more information on the benefit and how to apply.

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