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Can You Explain How Chapter 35 Benefits Work?

Q: I’m about to start receiving DEA benefits (Chapter 35). I’ve seen that the monthly payment is $936, but is that in addition to my tuition? Will VA pay for all of my tuition costs for the semester up front? I have no idea how this works!

A: Unfortunately, under Chapter 35, you are responsible to pay your own tuition, fees, books and other education-related expenses. However, you do get 45 months of education benefits and as a dependent child, you have up to age 26 to use them. If you are a surviving spouse, then you generally have 10 years to use them up. Any unused benefits at the end of the delimitation date will be lost.

Under Chapter 35, you can take either degree-producing or non-degree courses including:

  • certifications
  • licensing
  • apprenticeships/OJT.

Just ensure your school and course are VA-Approved.

If you haven’t already, you should go to the eBenefits website and submit VA Form 22-5490. That will get you your Certificate of Eligibility that shows your are eligible to use Chapter 35 benefits.

If you are eligible for Chapter 35 as a dependent child, you may also be eligible for the Fry Scholarship. Basically, this allows you to use your parent’s Post 9/11 GI Bill, if he/she was eligible for it and died in the line of duty. It pays considerably more being it pays for your tuition, plus gives you a monthly housing allowance and a book stipend up to $1,000 per year. Being you asked if the VA will pay your tuition, you may have already heard about this program.

If you do qualify for both the Fry Scholarship and Chapter 35, you will be limited to a total of 48 months of combined benefits under the VA’s Rule of 48. You could use up 36 months of the Fry Scholarship and then switch to Chapter 35 and use another 12 months.

If you are a surviving spouse, then you would not be eligible for the Fry Scholarship, but you may qualify for other scholarships, grants and loans. Start with submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what you would qualify for in educational funding.

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