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By Ken Cruickshank
Tulare County Veterans Service Officer 

The Chapter 35 Benefit Program


Last updated 7/16/2023 at 2:01pm | View PDF

I want to cover the Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) Program, also known as the Chapter 35 benefit program. This program provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans.

Under the program, dependents can receive up to 45 months of educational benefits, which may be used for degree or certificate programs, apprenticeship and on-the-job training; it can apply to correspondence courses for veterans' spouses. Under certain conditions, remedial, deficiency and refresher courses may also be approved. For more information, visit the Veterans Administration (VA) website at and select the Dependents' Educational Assistance link under Veteran Services.

So, who is eligible for these benefits?

If you are the son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child or spouse of a veteran (or in some cases, a servicemember) who:

• Died or is permanently and totally disabled due to a service-connected disability (i.e., a disability resulting from active service in the Armed Forces);

• Died from any cause while such permanent and total service-connected disability existed;

• Is missing in action or has been captured in the line of duty by a hostile force;

• Is being forcibly detained or interned in the line of duty by a foreign government or power; or

• Is hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service-connected, permanent and total disability, and is likely to be discharged for that disability.

There are also specific periods of eligibility that apply to the DEA benefit. Suppose you are the son or daughter of a qualifying veteran and wish to receive benefits for attending school or job training. In that case, you must be between the ages of 18 and 26.

Marital status does not disqualify you from receiving this benefit. If you are within that age group and still in the Armed Forces, the benefit may not be used while on active duty; however, the VA can extend your eligibility period by the number of months and days equal to the time spent on active duty. To receive the benefit, your service discharge must not be under dishonorable conditions, and, in most cases, the VA will not extend your eligibility period beyond your 31st birthday.

Suppose you are the spouse of a qualifying veteran. In that case, the benefits end ten years from the date that the VA finds you eligible, or from the date of the death of your veteran spouse. The exception to this rule is when the veteran is rated permanently and totally disabled (this must occur within three years from the date of military discharge).In such cases, the eligibility period is 20 years from the effective date of the rating. For surviving spouses (spouses of servicemembers who died on active duty), the benefit period ends 20 years from the date of death.

Ken Cruickshank, the Veterans Services Officer for Tulare County, is a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer. Contact him at the Veterans Services Office at 3348 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia; by phone at (559) 713-2880; or by email at


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