Military Advantage

VA Spouse, Family Education Money Changes Hit Soon

Mother and daughter Sandra and Nathenia Wells completed and associate of arts in general studies degrees and walked the stage at the Fort Bragg Colleges and Universities Graduation and Recognition Ceremony. (U.S. Army/Amber Avalona)

An education benefit primarily used by the spouses and children of permanently and totally disabled veterans or those who died after being ruled permanently and totally disabled will soon see major changes, thanks to legislation passed last year.

Currently, the Dependents' Educational Assistance Program (DEA) gives up to 45 months of education benefits at a set rate of $1,041 for those in full-time degree programs, with various levels of payment for those doing part-time schooling, apprenticeships or other types of vocational training.

The new measure, known as the Forever GI Bill, put in place a slew of GI Bill benefit expansions, including some that specifically affect families who use Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits.

The change to DEA expands the amount of cash available per month to users -- from $1,041 to $1,224 -- but caps at 36 the number of months it can be used.

Overall, the change decreases the benefit from a total potential value of $46,845 for full-time school to $44,064.

For those who do half- or three-quarter time coursework, the change will take the monthly allowance from $519 to $710 and $780 to $967, respectively.

Related: Military Spouse Education Help 101

The changes take place in two stages. For anyone who starts taking classes after July 31, the benefit will be capped at 36 months. The rate increase goes into effect Oct. 1.

Those who are currently taking classes with the benefit or who will start before July 31 will get the best of both worlds. Not only are they protected under the old timeline and able to get 45 months of benefits, but they also will receive the higher rate starting Oct. 1. For those users, the total benefit tuition value could be closer to $5,300, especially if they only recently started classes.

Beneficiaries should visit the VA's website to apply for DEA or view all of the eligibility requirements and use rules.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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