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How to Apply for DEA Benefits

The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA) offers up to 45 months of educational benefits to the surviving spouse, son or daughter of a veteran who has died, is listed as missing, was interned by enemy forces or has been permanently and totally disabled while on active duty.

How you go about applying for DEA benefits is determined by whether you already have decided on an educational institution or training course.

If you haven’t yet decided on an institution, you can complete VA form 22-5490, the Application for Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance, to determine whether you are eligible or not and for how long you will be eligible to receive DEA benefits. You can get this form online at as an Electronic Application. You can also get a copy of this form by calling 1-888-GIBILL (1-888-442-4551). You can submit the application electronically to the VA but you will still have to print, sign and mail the signature page to the VA. 

If you know where you want to go to school or receive training, the first thing to do is to verify if the institution you are interested in is approved to receive VA benefits. You can find this out directly from the school through their Financial Aid Office or from the VA. If the school has been approved, you will need to locate the official at the school who handles enrollments for VA Benefits. This person will certify to the VA that you are enrolled in their institution. The Financial Aid Office should be able to help you locate this official.

Once you have completed VA Form 22-5490, you will need a full copy to present to the school’s official so that they can certify your enrollment for you. Once you have the form certified, send it into the correct VA processing office so that they can handle your claim. These offices are separated regionally. Check with your local VA to make sure you are sending VA form 22-5490 to the correct processing office. Once your claim is processed your funds will be released to you.

Every month that you are attending a college or university you will receive Form 22-8979, the Student Verification of Enrollment. This form verifies that you are still enrolled so that the VA can release your payments. If you are in an apprenticeship program, on-the-job-training or a correspondence course, there are similar types of forms that need to be completed monthly or quarterly to verify that you are enrolled and still entitled to receive your funds.

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