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What Education Assistance Is My Son Authorized to Receive?

Q: My husband passed away while on active duty on 9/24/10. My husband’s daughter and my son lived with the two of us. His daughter (Katie) was taken by the ex-wife home to Texas as I was just a step-mother. My son still lives with me and goes to college full-time and hasn’t worked while going to school as he needs full time to study. I know Katie is taken care of, but I really would like help with my son’s schooling as this is very expensive and get no help with even his bills or living expenses. He and I filled out the necessary forms and sent them in for help with his schooling, but we are still waiting for an answer. The letter said no need for us to call them, they will notify us. Please just let me know where to go from here. Thank you so much.

A: First of all, let me say I’m sorry for your loss. You can take comfort in knowing he served his country well.

You didn’t say which “forms” you filled out, so I’m not sure what kind of help you requested, but I can tell you what your son may qualify for. If your husband formally adopted your son, though the legal system and he is listed as one of your husband’s dependents in DEERS, then he should be able to get 45 months of education benefit through the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Education Assistance program, also known as Chapter 35. Currently, for a full-time student, that pays $936 per month. The form to apply for Chapter 35 benefits is VA Form 22-5490.

Also, if your husband had six years of service or more, and had signed up for an additional four years, he would have had access to the Post 9/11 GI Bill transfer option. He could have made a transfer of up to 36 months of education benefits to your son, again only if he legally had adopted him. If he did make a transfer, I would assume he would have told you about it, but one way to find out is to submit VA Form 22-1990e. If it comes back denied, then you know he did not make a transfer.

Sometimes it can take 8 to 10 weeks to hear back from the VA. If you are past that point already, don’t hesitate to call and ask about the status of your son’s application.

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