Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA)

Updated: January 8, 2024
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    The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program (also known simply as DEA) offers financial education assistance to eligible dependents of veterans and service members who died or were permanently disabled in action or who are missing in action.

    Eligible family members may use the benefits for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeships and on-the-job training, as well as for career and educational counseling. Spouses may also take correspondence courses. You may be approved for remedial, deficiency and refresher courses under certain circumstances.

    Eligibility for Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA)

    To be eligible, you must be a spouse, child (including stepchild or adopted child) of one of the following, according to the VA:

    • A veteran or service member who died while on active duty
    • A veteran who died from or was permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability
    • A service member who was missing in action or was captured in the line of duty and held by a hostile force
    • A veteran service member who was forcibly detained or interned in the line of duty by a foreign government or power
    • A service member who is likely to be discharged for a permanent and total disability that they are hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for (this change is effective Dec. 23, 2006)

    Generally, children between the ages of 18 and 26 are eligible, and marriage does not affect their eligibility.

    Forever GI Bill and DEA Changes

    Under the 2017 Forever GI Bill, there were two changes to the DEA program.

    Change 1: Months of Entitlement Reduced

    The Forever GI Bill reduced the number of months of entitlement from 45 months to 36 months, which is consistent with other GI Bill programs that provide educational assistance. This change took effect on Aug. 1, 2018, and applies to those who access the benefits on or after that date. Those who first used their benefits prior to that date are eligible for up to 45 months of benefits.

    Change 2: Increased DEA Payments

    The monthly payment for educational assistance under the DEA program increased for institutional training. The change took effect on Oct. 1, 2018, and applied to everyone.

    DEA vs. the Fry Scholarship

    Eligible dependents may be eligible for both the DEA and the Fry Scholarship. Most will have to choose between the programs when they apply, and they cannot change their minds. Those whose parents died in the line of duty prior to Aug. 1, 2011, may be able to receive both benefits, but they can only access one at a time.

    DEA vs. Fry Scholarship Comparison Chart

    FeaturesDEAFry Scholarship
    Benefit paymentsThe student receives the monthly amount. The current monthly payment (effective Oct. 1, 2023-Sept. 30, 2024) for full-time training is $1,488.
    Tuition and fee payment (paid to school). The scholarship covers the full cost of in-state tuition for training pursued at public institutions. At private institutions, the current rate (effective Aug. 1, 2023-July 31, 2024) is up to $27,120.05.

    Books and supplies stipend (paid to student). For books and supplies, the student receives up to $1,000 a year, divided equally among the terms.

    Monthly housing allowance (paid to student). This stipend is based on local basic allowance for housing (BAH) rates for E5 grade with dependents. It’s paid monthly.
    Duration of benefitsSurviving spouses of those who died in the line of duty may use benefits for up to 20 years from the service member’s date of death. Otherwise, benefits last for 10 years from the date the VA determines they qualify.

    Surviving children are eligible to use benefits between the ages of 18 and 26.
    There is no time limit for surviving spouses who became eligible after Jan. 1, 2013. If they remarry, they are no longer eligible.

    Surviving children can access this benefit when they turn 18 or graduate. If the parent died on after January 1, 2013, there is no time limit to use their benefits. If the parent died prior to that date, benefits expire when the child turns 33.
    Maximum months of benefits45 months if the benefits were first accessed by August 1, 2018.
    36 months if the benefits were accessed after August 1, 2018.
    36 months
    Concurrent receipt of DIC and education benefit for spouseYesYes
    Programs coveredCollege, business, technical, or vocational programs
    Certification tests
    Apprenticeships/on-the-job training
    Tutorial assistance
    Work study
    College, business, technical, or vocational programs
    Certification tests
    Apprenticeships/on-the-job training
    Vocational flight training
    Tutorial assistance
    Work study

    Written by Team