VA education benefits are a valuable resource for military dependents seeking higher education. If you currently serve in the military and wish to use your benefits to fund your student’s education, you’ll want to verify the latest requirements from your branch of service for eligibility. Remember, transferability is a Department of Defense retention tool and not controlled directly by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Transfer of benefits must take place while a service member is still on active duty.
If you can or have already transferred benefits to a spouse or dependent, then the following guidelines apply to you and your beneficiary. In order to use your benefits to fund your student’s education, it’s important to get the process started early.
You should apply for benefits at least 90 days before the start of classes to ensure that they’ll be transferred to and received by your student by the start of the semester. In fact, the process can and should be started even if your student has not yet selected which college they’ll attend.
To apply for benefits:
Go to va.gov.
In the Education box in the Access and manage your VA benefits and health care section, click Apply for education benefits.
On the, How to apply for the GI Bill and related benefits page, scroll down to the green button labelled Find your Education Benefits Form.
To find your form, answer the questions as they apply to you and your student, and the website will automatically route you to the appropriate form. This will most likely be the application for a family member to use transferred benefits, Form 22-1990E.
After you and your student fill out the application, the website will provide information on next steps, necessary documents and VA representative contacts. Within a few weeks, the VA will mail your student a paper copy of their Certificate of Eligibility, which they will need to present to a designated VA certifying official at their chosen university to verify the status of their benefits.
Most schools also require renewed documentation of VA eligibility each semester, as well as some verification on how many credit hours your student is enrolled in. These forms often need to be turned in prior to the start of the school year, so timeliness is key.
You may need to inform the Department of Veterans Affairs that your dependent is becoming a full-time student. If you receive a disability benefit from the VA or are VA Chapter 35 eligible, the amount may be reduced when your child turns 18 unless the VA is notified that they are enrolling in college.
It’s also important to remember that VA education benefits cover in-state tuition costs, but there are options to cover the remainder of your student’s bill if they wish to study out of state. If your student is enrolled as a nonresident and paying out-of-state tuition and fees, contact their school to see if they participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which can cover the remaining charges after your student’s benefits are applied to their bill. Space is limited and not all universities participate in the program, so be sure to reach out to the university first.
You might also check with the school about residency options. Some schools have options for military and veteran students to petition for in-state tuition.
For those who are using their education benefits for the first time, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to applying for benefits. These steps should be followed regardless of which university your student attends.