Chapter 35 – The Survivors and Dependents Assistance Program

The Chapter 35 provides up to 45 months of entitlement for eligible spouses and dependent children to go to school and learn a career. The program provides a means to get a post-secondary education either as a traditional student in a brick-and-mortar classroom setting, or through one of many online options. Typical types of courses covered are:

  • College programs resulting in a degree
  • Trade, technical, licensure or certification training
  • On-the-job training/apprenticeships
  • Correspondence courses
  • Cooperative training
  • Overseas programs (leading toward a college degree).

Qualification Requirements

To qualify as a surviving spouse or dependent child, the sponsor – meaning the veteran – must be VA-rated as totally and permanently disabled as a result of a service-connected event, or by the passing of the disabled veteran. However, the requirements also extend to servicemembers listed as missing in action, a prisoner of war or held captive by a foreign power.

The definition of a surviving spouse is straightforward, however, what constitutes a dependent child may not be. To qualify for the program, you are considered a dependent, if you are under the age of 27 and:

  • a biological child of the military member
  • adopted through the courts system or
  • a legally adopted step-child.

Program Highlights

Dependent Children – As a dependent child, you have to go to school to draw the benefit. With 45 months of entitlement, and attending nine-month academic school years, it is enough benefit for up to five years of school. Just be sure to start school early enough so you can finish before your 27th birthday as unused entitlements are lost at that time.

And you must remain in school to continue to draw the benefit. If you decide to follow in your sponsor’s footsteps and joint the military, your benefits will stop while you are on active duty. Once out of the military and back in school, your benefit will start again, provided you were not discharged under dishonorable conditions. By voluntarily serving in the military between the ages of 18 and 26, your eligibility can be extended up to eight years, but not past your 31st birthday.

If you already served in the military, but were recalled to active duty after September 10, 2001, your eligibility can be extended for the duration of the deployment plus four months. In case of an involuntary recall, eligibility can extend past your 31st birthday.

Besides military service, other events can extend your eligibility period, such as:

  • Not able to attend classes due to having to meet family or financial obligations.
  • Unexpected change in employment – you get transferred to a new location with the same company.
  • A death in the family.
  • A debilitating family illness requiring your care.
  • Personal long-term illness preventing you from attending classes.
  • Called into missionary service.

Surviving Spouse – As a surviving spouse, and you remarry while drawing Chapter 35 benefits, the benefits or eligibility of your dependent children will not be affected.

Your program benefits normally end 10 years from your date of eligibility, unless your sponsor dies while on active duty. In that situation, your eligibility period doubles and will continue up to 20 years after your sponsor’s death, or until your 45 months of benefits are exhausted, or until you remarry, provided you are under the age of 57. If you are 57 or older, your eligibility will continue until the benefit is exhausted, you graduate or quit school.

If your sponsor is officially listed as missing in action, a prisoner of war or detained by a foreign power, your eligibility starts on the 91st day after the official listed status and ends 10 years later. If your sponsor is found or released, your eligibility ends immediately, however, you may still draw benefits for up to 12 weeks or until the end of the school term, whichever occurs first.

Chapter 35 Application Procedures

Before applying for the program, first determine if your school is VA-approved. If it is, submit VA Form 22-5490 from the eBenefits website or download the form, fill it out and mail it to the VA Regional Office having jurisdiction over your school. The information is on the form.

As with most GI Bills, payment rates are annually adjusted on October 1st. As of this writing, a full-time student attending either a college degree or non-degree program receives $936 per month; starting October 1st, the payment increases to $957 per month.

If you attend school on a less than full-time basis, then your payment is prorated proportionally according to your rate of pursuit. For example, if you are considered a half-time student, then you would receive 50% of the $936 amount per month.

As far as entitlement use, one month of benefit is deducted for each one month of benefit ($936) paid out. So as a full-time student, you would use one month of entitlement for each month of school, while as a half-time student, you would use only one month of benefit every two months of school.

Apprenticeships and OJT programs pay differently; these programs pay $682 ($698 starting October 1st) per month for the first six months and then your pay drops incrementally during each successive 6-month period. As your knowledge of the trade increases, so does your pay from your employer, offsetting your drop of Chapter 35 pay.

With the Chapter 35 program, you have some financial assistance to learn a career. While the program does not pay all school-related expenses, it does help financially to learn a trade or career – an opportunity otherwise you may not have had.


Photo thanks to DVIDSHUB  under creative commons license on Flickr.

60 thoughts on “Chapter 35 – The Survivors and Dependents Assistance Program”

  1. what is the defenation of a legally adopted step-child? Is it a child of the wife you marry? or is there a legal procees? where are the VA aproved trade school and colleges in the Philippines near Davao City? May I have a list plz? Where do I go to to checkout Chapter 35 and coz I have problems understanding is there help–an office to go to locally—in south jersey? thank you

  2. Bryan,

    Legally adopted means that when you marry, you go through the legal adoption process for the children of your new spouse. If you simply marry but do not legally adopt, those children are not technically yours.

    Here is a list of the Regional Benefits Offices in New Jersey:

    Unfortunately I do not have a list of VA approved trade schools and colleges in the Philippines. Most accredited schools are approved. You will need to check with the VA education office to see if the specific school you are interested in is covered.

    1. Carolyn, If you are able, contact the VA regional education office for your area. They will be able to get the process started and to let you know exactly which items of paperwork you’ll need specific to your situation and reason for needing an extension.

  3. What would happen if you are a dependent and you fail one of the classes while on the Chapter 35 VA benefits? Would they penalize you by taking away your benefits for that month, or semester?

    1. Dominique,

      When (if) you fail a class, the VA will want their money back. The school has to report your progress and academic standing back to the VA, and if you don’t meet with the agreed grades, you will be required to pay back the cost of that individual class.

      Usually you can make payment arrangements. They don’t send you a bill, but instead will take it out of any future benefits. Arrangements can be made to split the amount they take over several months.

  4. A disabled Vet can receive additional compensation in their disability compensation claim for a step-child that are not adopted and that doesn’t even reside in their home. The compensation amount is rated the same as biological children so it would seem that VA Disability does not differentiate between the two. It lacks all logic then that the same non-resident step-child is not eligible for Chapter 35. Can someone point me to all the different definitions of “dependent” used by the VA?

  5. Anne, the VA usually defines dependent in each of its benefits eligibility lists. For whichever benefit you are interested in, just look for the eligibility criteria, if dependents are eligible it will define which dependents and how they are classified.

  6. What are the pay periods for chapter 35 benefits? Like the check that I receive on 1st of whatever month does that check cover the month that just ended or the same month I received check? Ex: check for nov 1st was that for oct 2011 or nov 2011?

  7. Connee Robertson

    I have a son that is 100% disabled from a head injury when he was 5. My husband, a 100% disabled vet, and I live in Arkansas. My son, now 34, attends University in Riverside, California and lives with his father there. We have been married for 14 years. Would he qualify for any educational benefits from the VA?

  8. I am in my junoir year as a CHP 35 benefit, im a depenent of my father. My question is say I graduate in the 4 years i need to do it in, will that last year thats left on the benefits go to a master degree program? I heard that this benefit stops paying my tuition after I get a bachelors degree, and I was just wondering if i have a year left on the benefit can I use it for a masters program/?

  9. I am a single parent before with one son 25 yrs old now, and then married with american disabled almost 9 yrs now, he did not adopt my son. My question is my son is entitled of educational benefits chapter 35?

    1. No your son would not be entitled to Chapter 35 benefits. Your husband would have had to formally adopt him for him to be eligible.

      Plus Chapter 35 benefits have to be used by age 26 and your son is fastly approaching the limit.

  10. Im a dependent of a disabled vet who passed away 7 years ago, my question is if I get married will I loss the chapter 35 in being eligible to go to school with vetern benefits?

    1. Hi Crystal. As it says in the article, you will lose your Chapter 35 benefits only if you remarry and are under the age of 57 at the time. If you remarry and you are over age 57, then you keep your benefits.

      Also, if your spouse passed away after getting out of the military, you only have 10 years from his passing to use your Chapter 35 benefits – you indicated you are at the 7-year mark right now. If he passed away while still in the military, then you have up to 20 years to use your benefits.

      You most likley have 45 months of Chapter 35 benefits that you can use, but you now only have about 3 years of time left to use them, so you most likley will not be able to use them all before time runs out.

    2. Kevin Airgid Posted on I am using WPMobile on this site however, bcesuae my content is mostly text. So when you come to this blog you don’t get the computer browser UI, but a formatted one for mobile. I’ve tested it out and I actually prefer the mobile version What do you think?

  11. I am a dependent of a 100% disabled vet. My dad helped me get the ch35 benefits for my schooling last august. My question is, if i get married will it cancel my ch 35 benefits or does marriage of the child dependent matter?

    1. I am currently getting chapter 35 and I was married during the first few months of receiving it. It does not affect it if you are a dependant only if you are a spouse of the veteran.

  12. Does anyone know if there are any dependent educational benefits for a disabled veteran who is only 50% and did NOT serve during the war?

    1. Hi Betty. Your husband may have some educational benefits under the Vet’s Succes VoHab (Chapter 31 ) program. He can find more information at, but I don’t know of any spousal or dependent educational benefits. Sorry!

      Anyone else know of anything that could help out Betty?

  13. If I fail a class and pay the money back to the VA, can I still qualify and receive the Chapter 35 benefits for the rest of my schooling?

  14. I am a 30% service connected military retiree. I just learned that my son with help of my ex-wife obtained assistance from the VA to have his enrollment paid for by the VA and I was not informed or unaware that he could do this without my knowledge. He started with 14 units but had to drop one class and now is taking only 10 units. I have two questions. First how can he obtain benefits without my being notified and second, If he dropped a class will he have to reimburse the VA or will they try to take it out of my small pension? Thank you.

    1. Hi Rick. No they can’t transfer benefits to him. You have to do that and you couldn’t now even if you wanted to. The way Congress wrote the Post 9/11 GI Bill rules, you had to be currently serving to transfer benefits to a spouse or dependent.

      I would question what they told you and I would ask to see what proof they have taht his scholing is being paid for by the VA. Even if it is, it isn’t coming out of your GI Bill benefits, if you didn’t authorize it.

      If he fails a class, he is fiscally responsible for paying the money back (if required), not you.

  15. My husband is classified 100% disabled. Our son registered and paid for the classes in advanced and is now attending classes as a full time students. Last week we received a letter stating our son is not entitle to the educational benefits because he is not classified as permanently and totally disabled but an appeal letter was attached to this notification. I took the letter to the college that my son attends and the VA represenative said I didn’t know thaat that Vet had to be permantly and totally disabled. I informed the VA supervisor that yet a different clerk only asked if my husband was 100% and I said yes.
    Long story short, is there a way to do an appeal for our son to possibly still attend school under this disability benefit AND can you tell me more about the steps to getting an evaluation for my husband being evaluated to follow-up on updating and possibly changing my husbands’ evaluation to totally and permanently? Thanks for you assistance.

    1. Monica, I’m not an expert about the VA benefits but I can say I’ve slowly gained a lot of experience with the system. Once you hit the magic 100% total you have to apply for the permanent. It isn’t an automatic thing and it’s not quick. VA will retro the benefits though so if your husband applies for permanent and is granted your son may apply for Chapter 35 and they will process payment back to the date your husband was granted P&T and your son was enrolled in school.

  16. If my fiance just got out of the military and we are about to get married would I receive any school benefits??

  17. christian phelps

    I’m currently about to enroll in college. I was eligible for the VA benefit to pay for 44 months of college I was wondering if I got married before the 44 months like before I finish school would be benefit stop??

    1. Kevin Airgid Posted on I was waiting until sooneme caught onto the fact that I forced the mobile site on users here at my blog (which yes contradicts my blog post I know!) I am going to turn it off as I have been testing it for some time now and I really hate the fact that none of the images load. I think mobile versions are fine for like functional app-like sites, but common blogs I think if your design is sound it will scale properly on the iPhone and Android

  18. My husband is 100% Service connected disabled now for almost 2 years. Our children are over 27 years old. Do they qualify for any education benefits?

  19. My wife and I are looking to legally adopt a child who is a disabled vetern’s son rated at 100% service connected. The father is not able to maintain the parenting of the dependent child who is still in grade school. Will he be eligible for chapter 35 benefits when he comes of age under our supervison?

    1. If you legally adopt the child, the child will no longer qualify for the Chapter 35 program because s/he would no longer be the dependent of a disabled veteran. However, if the child would stay with his/her father, s/he would qualify for benefits.

      However, don’t let this stop you from giving the child a better life. There are all kinds of scholarships and grants available that s/he could use to obtain a college education. Each year thousands of dollars go unused because no one applies for the money. While it does take some research, it is doable and maybe the child will get offered scholarships from a school.

  20. Hi wanted to kno if i was adopted by grandfather who is my father father,s and my father is a disable vet how do I put my father name on my birth certificate so i can get he’s benefits

    1. First Leah, benefits have to be used up by age 26 or you lose the unused benefits, so I don’t know how that falls in line with your age.

      Basically, the only way you could do that legally would be if your real father adopted you back. To get he benefits, you would have to be a legal dependent of his, however if you are over the age of 21, you would no longer be considered a dependent of his anyway and most likely would not qualify for benefits.

  21. If a person obtains a degree within lets say 30 months out of the 45 month entitlement period, can the remaining months still be applied toward another degree program?

    1. They can, but I would suggest you get that degree in a field related to your first degree or work toward an advanced degree in the same field.

  22. Okay here is my situation. I attended college for 3 maybe 4 semesters, I can’t remember. I was young, naive, and didnt really take school seriously at the time. I failed some classes, ended up owing the va like 4 grand…BUT (before you judge) I have paid them back every penny since then and I would like to return to school. Can I still receive benefits? Also, its only for 45 months? I ask because i would be starting fresh at a new college. Thank you.

  23. If an eligible student applies late for Ch. 35 Benefits and gets approved, will the VA pay you from the date you we’re enrolled in the school?

    1. If you were eligible for Chapter 35 benefits at the time, yes the VA can go back up to one year and pay back benefits.

  24. I’m 28 and just found my biological father, he has told me I need to get a waiver filled out so I can get backpay and education benefits, how do I start this process? I have no idea what to do but apparently because of my age there’s no time to procrastinate, please help if you can, thanks.

    1. I’m not sure what he is talking about either. The best thing is to fill out VA Form 22-5490 from the eBenefits website and submit it. Be sure to explain your situation in great detail.

  25. My son is receiving benefits under chapter 35. After registering for class we checked on getting books. The person at the college book store said the VA will identify books for his class and pay for them. My question is, will the money for the books come out of the monthly stipend?

    1. I don’t think that is correct. From what I know, your son will have to pay for his own books out of his monthly stipend.

    2. I am a Chapter 35 dependent and I am currently enrolled. Mike the way mine works is I take my schedule to the campus bookstore and get my books. When I go to the counter I tell them that I am on GI Bill and they take care of the rest. I never have to pay for any out of pocket or my monthly check.

  26. Hi, my sons father passed away from a non service related injury,but he did receive some disability for hearing loss,my son is now looking at colleges,will he be able to receive benefits for this?

  27. Yes you can Ken. As long as the child shows up in DEERS as your legal dependent. And the child would have to use up his/her benefits by age 26.

  28. I receive Chapter 35 benefits and I am wondering if I apply for a low income housing unit (my husband and I), is Chapter 35 considered income?

  29. I am a spouse of a 100% disabled vet and I am using the DEA for a degree in social work. Once I have received my bachelors and have exhausted the 45 months (if I even need that much), does our dependent children also get 45 month DEA? Or does this benefit only pay out once?

  30. I have a 60 % rating. i am going to be getting married in april of next year. will my spouse and step child qualify for any benefits and will my pension increase

  31. I am a 50 year old male looking to return to school to complete my degree. My father was in the military during (he is deceased now.) Are there any military benefits that I can access through his military service?

  32. i am a 27 year old chapter 35 dependent. i am close to getting bachelors degree. i to wanted to know am i allowed to continue for masters degree. also when they say entitlement or benefit i wanted to be clear. are they referring to the stipend money we receive for books. not the actual time left to attend school.

  33. Hi, if I change my last name (my father’s last name as well) does that or will that affect my rights to Chapter 35 Benefits?

  34. Hi boyfriend is a dependent that was receibing the VA benefits also, but his him and father were recently in a big argument that lead to hua dad cancelling his benefits. Is there anyway for him to go around his dad and get them back? He is still enrolled as a full time studaent and works 2 jobs.

  35. Jonathan Cantley

    My grandfather who passed away 11 years ago in June was a military veteran in the Army.Am I eligible for Chapter 35 Benefits??

  36. I am 100% disabled p&t dated whoman 10 years raised child now paying for college If I adopt here in at 20 in ga will she be eligible for chapter 35 bennifits

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