VA offers a number of educational benefits to veterans and, in some cases, to a veteran's spouse and dependents. Educational benefits programs include the Montgomery GI Bill ("New GI Bill"), Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program, Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP), Survivors & Dependents Assistance (DEA), Educational Test Program, National Call to Service Program, and Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. Each program has different eligibility requirements, eligibility periods, and time limits for completing the educational programs. A person receiving benefits from one VA educational program cannot receive benefits from any other VA educational benefits program.
Each program requires a claim for the benefit desired to begin the process using VA Form 22-1990 [link]. As all of these programs often have very specific requirements, any potential claimant should carefully review each program in detail to identify the benefits for which they may be eligible and the best program for their individual needs. The two most commonly sought programs are briefly described below.
Benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill are generally available for those who went on active duty after June 30, 1985. In some cases, Selected Reserve and National Guard members may also be eligible. In all cases, there are minimum service periods of from 2 to 4 years depending on the specific circumstances of service. Under this program, which is also known as "Chapter 30" benefits, educational benefits are available for up to 36 months. Payments are for a fixed amount depending on whether the educational program is full- or part-time.
Eligible veterans must have received an honorable discharge (not just "other than dishonorable"). Before applying, a claimant must also have (1) obtained a high school diploma or equivalent or (2) completed the equivalent of 12 credit hours in a college degree program. Involuntarily separated veterans may also qualify under certain conditions.
The Post-9/11 GI Bill became effective August 1, 2009, and provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001, and individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days of service. A veteran must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which are also known as "Chapter 33" benefits. Approved training under this program includes undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational and technical training, licensing, and national testing. To receive benefits, the particular training program attended must be approved by VA.
In general, the Post 9-11 GI Bill program pays full tuition directly to the school for all public school in-state students. There are some restrictions and caps for those attending private or foreign schools. The program will also pay a limited monthly housing allowance, books and supplies stipend, and a one-time rural benefit, if applicable. The Chapter 33 program provides up to 36 months of benefits and benefits are generally payable for up to 15 years following release from active duty.
An individual entitled to either Chapter 30 or Chapter 33 benefits may transfer an entitlement to educational assistance to: (1) a spouse; (2) a child; or (3) a combination of spouse and child. The family member must otherwise be eligible for benefits at the time of transfer to receive transferred educational benefits. Applications should be submitted using VA Form 22-5490 [link].
38 U.S.C. Chapter 35 provides educational assistance to "eligible persons," including "children whose education would otherwise be impeded or interrupted by reason of disability or death of a parent from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated in the Armed Forces." 38 U.S.C. § 3500. For purposes of DEA benefits under chapter 35, "eligible person" means a child of a person who, as a result of qualifying service, died of a service-connected disability or has a total disability permanent in nature resulting from a service-connected disability, or who dies while a disability so evaluated was in existence. 38 U.S.C. § 3501(A)(1)(a).
In general, an eligible child's period of eligibility for educational assistance under chapter 35 ends on his or her 26th birthday. 38 U.S.C. § 3512(a); 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(a), (b), although there are some exceptions. 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(g). The general rule is that the commencing date of an original award of educational assistance is the latest of: (a) the date the educational institution certifies the course; (b) one year before the date of receipt of the claim; or (c) the effective date of the approval of the course, or one year before VA receives approval notice, whichever is later. 38 U.S.C. § 3672; 38 C.F.R. § 21.4131(a). When determining the effective date of an award under Chapter 35 the Secretary may consider the individual's application as having been filed on the eligibility date of the individual if that eligibility date is more than one year before the date of the initial rating decision. 38 U.S.C. § 5113(b).
Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. section 5113(b)(2) the criteria for an earlier effective date under this statute requires that the claimant is an eligible person who:
(A) submits to the Secretary an original application for educational assistance under Chapter 35 of this title . . . within one year of the date that the Secretary makes the rating decision;
(B) claims such educational assistance for pursuit of an approved program of education during a period preceding the one-year period ending on the date on which the application was received by the Secretary; and
(C) would have been entitled to such educational assistance for such course pursuit if the individual had submitted such application on the individual's eligibility date.