Department of Veterans Affairs Education Benefits
The VA offers a number of education benefits for family members who have lost a service member. For general information about these benefits, visit http://gibill.va.gov. Information about several programs is provided below.
Veterans Educational Assistance Program
The Veterans Education Assistance Program was one of many education incentive programs offered to service members who entered active duty between Jan. 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985. If your loved one participated in the Veterans Educational Assistance Program, the VA will pay a refund equal to the amount contributed, less any benefits paid, to the service member’s surviving beneficiaries designated on the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance election form, or to the estate if no SGLI form is on record. In cases involving multiple beneficiaries, each beneficiary must submit a separate refund request.
Montgomery GI Bill
The VA will pay a special Montgomery GI Bill death benefit to a designated survivor in the event of the service-connected death of a service member while on active duty or within one year after discharge or release. The deceased must either have been entitled to educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill program or a participant in the program who would have been so entitled but did not meet the high school diploma or length-of-service requirement. The amount paid will be equal to the participant’s actual military pay reduction, less any education benefits paid.
The Post-9/11 GI-Bill
If your loved one transferred any months of unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits before their death, as a spouse you may be able to start using this benefit immediately. Recent law changes in 2018 removed the time limitation for the use of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for individuals children of deceased Servicemembers who first become entitled to Post-9/11 GI Bill program benefits on or after January 1, 2013 and all Fry spouses. For more information, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/
Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship
Children and surviving spouses of an active duty member of the Armed Forces who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001 are eligible for this benefit. Children are eligible as of their 18th birthday (unless they have already graduated high school). A child may be married or over 23 and still be eligible. If they became eligible before January 1, 2013 their eligibility ends on their 33rd birthday. The age limitation is removed if the child became eligible on or after January 1, 2013. Although surviving spouses do not have a time limit with which to use their benefits, they will lose eligibility to this benefit upon remarriage. More information may be found at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/fry_scholarship.asp
Survivor and Dependents Assistance
Surviving spouses are eligible for educational benefits for up to 20 years after the date of the service member’s death. Children are normally eligible to use their educational benefits between the ages of 18 and 26. This benefit may be used to pursue an associate’s, bachelor’s or graduate degree; courses leading to certification; technical or vocational school; apprenticeships; and various other educational programs. If a child is eligible for the Fry Scholarship, he or she may be eligible for the VA Dependents Educational Assistance Program. Although the benefits cannot be used at the same time, a child may be eligible for up to 48 months of benefits between the two programs.
Dependents over the age of 14 with physical or mental disabilities that impair their ability to pursue an education may receive benefits for specialized vocational or restorative training, including speech and voice correction, language retraining, lip reading, auditory training, Braille reading and writing, and similar programs. Certain disabled or surviving spouses also are eligible.