TN 120 (01-14)
SI 00830.306 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Educational Benefits
Social Security Act, as amended — Sections 1612(a)(2) and 1612(b)(7)
; Regulations 20 CFR — 416.1102, 416.1103(b)(1) and 416.1124(c)(3)
A. Introduction to VA educational benefits
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides educational assistance through different programs, including vocational rehabilitation. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) policies on income and resources depend on the nature of the VA program. The SSI interviewer determines from which program (called “chapters” for VA purposes) the veteran draws benefits because VA chapters provide different benefits at different times.
B. Explanation of terms used for VA educational benefits and program details
1. Period of eligibility
Veteran requirements are:
after leaving the service, have up to 10 years to complete their education;
if enrolled in a vocational rehabilitation program have up to 12 years to complete the program;
if participating under the Chapter 33 program, “Post-9/11 GI Bill,” have up to 15 years to complete their education.
2. Frequency of payment
Payments are usually made monthly for months the veteran is in school.
Payments may be made less frequently if school attendance is less than full time.
Most programs pay benefits monthly or according to the school year (quarter, semester, or other).
3. Other eligible beneficiaries
Dependents and survivors of veterans may also be eligible for educational benefits.
4. “Contributory” programs
The program works as follows:
the veteran contributes to the educational fund while in the service;
the VA matches the contribution when the veteran withdraws it to pursue an education; and
the veteran has the right to withdraw the funds he or she contributed as a lump sum.
5. Chapter 30 — Active Duty Educational Assistance Program (“Montgomery” GI Bill)
VA makes payments under this non-contributory program to veterans who:
entered active service on or after July 1, 1985;
served 3 years after June 30, 1985; and
had their military pay reduced for 12 months during their active service due to participation in this program.
Chapter 30 benefits provide up to 36 months of financial assistance for educational pursuits. VA pays benefits to the veteran on a monthly basis.
Benefits generally expire 10 years from the last day of active service.
Payments under this program are not augmented for dependents if the veteran entered active service after June 30, 1985.
6. Chapter 31 — Training and Rehabilitation for Veterans with Service Connected Disabilities
VA pays benefits under this non-contributory vocational rehabilitation program to veterans who served in the military after August 1, 1940.
The benefits may be augmented for dependents.
7. Chapter 32 — Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)
VA pays benefits under this contributory program to veterans who entered active service for the first time after December 31, 1976 and before July 1, 1985 and made contributions before April 1, 1987.
Chapter 32 benefits provide from 1 to 36 months of financial assistance for educational pursuits depending on the number of contributions made. Benefits are paid to the veteran on a monthly basis.
Benefits generally expire 10 years from release of active duty. If the benefits have not been completely used after the 10 years, the remaining contributions are automatically refunded to the veteran.
The benefits are not augmented for dependents.
8. Chapter 33 — Post-9/11 GI Bill Program
Benefits are payable for educational pursuits starting on or after August 1, 2009. VA pays educational benefits under this non-contributory program to those veterans who, on or after September 11, 2001, served:
Veterans discharged with disabilities receive 100% of the educational benefits and benefits expire 15 years from the date the veteran was released for a service-connected disability.
Veterans serving on active duty between 90 days and 36 months receive benefits on a sliding scale between 40% for 90 days, and 100% for 36 or more months and benefits expire 15 years from the last period of active duty of at least 90 consecutive days.
Veterans eligible under the Montgomery GI Bill can transfer any unused portion of the benefit to a dependent spouse or dependent child. Eligible participants are entitled to receive a percentage of the following:
benefits used to pay for tuition, fees, and tutorials are paid to the veteran at the beginning of each quarter, semester, or term. Tuition, fees, and tutorial benefits are paid directly to the educational institution;
a housing stipend is paid directly to the veteran (or eligible dependents) on a monthly basis;
a yearly books and supplies stipend of up to $1000 per year is paid directly to the veteran (or eligible dependent); and
a one-time payment of $500 is paid to certain veterans relocating from highly rural areas.
A veteran may also receive reimbursements for license or certification tests (e.g., broker, certified public accountant), national tests (e.g., SAT, GMAT, ACT), or assistance for apprenticeships or on-the-job training.
The benefits are not augmented for dependents.
9. Chapter 35 — Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program
The VA makes payments under this non-contributory program to spouse, surviving spouses, and children (between the ages 18 and 26) of veterans who:
died in the service; or
are permanently and totally disabled as the result of a service-connected disability; or
died from any cause while a permanent and total service-connected disability existed; or
was a service member who died during active military service; or
is a service member missing in action or was captured in the line of duty by a hostile force; or
was a service member forcibly detained or interned in the line of duty by a foreign government or power; or
is a service member hospitalized or receiving outpatient treatment for a service-connected permanent and total disability and is likely to be discharged from service for that disability.
Chapter 35 benefits provide 45 months of financial assistance for educational pursuits. VA pays benefits to the student on a monthly basis.
Benefits generally end for a spouse 10 years from the date the VA determines eligibility. Children must use the benefit between the ages of 18 and 26.
NOTE: A surviving spouse may be eligible for benefits for 20 years from the date of the veteran’s death, if the veteran was rated permanently and totally disabled with an effective date within 3 years from discharge or if the veteran died in active duty.
10. Chapter 1606 — Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserve program
VA pays benefits under this non-contributory program to reservists who have a 6-year commitment while they are in the reserves.
Chapter 1606 benefits provide up to 36 months of financial assistance for educational pursuits.
Benefits generally end the day the veteran leaves the Selected Reserve.
Payments under this program are not augmented for dependents.
11. Chapter 1607 – Reserve Educational Assistance Program
VA pays benefits under this non-contributory program to members of a reserve component called or ordered to active duty or full-time National Guard duty in response to a war or national emergency, as declared by the President or Congress.
To be eligible for benefits, the veteran must be a member of a reserve component and served in active duty on or after September 11, 2001 for at least 90 consecutive days in a contingency operation in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Chapter 1607 benefits provide up to 36 months of financial assistance for educational pursuits. Benefits are paid to the veteran on a monthly basis.
Benefits generally end 10 years from the date the veteran leaves Selected Reserve.
12. Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)
The VRAP program is included in the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. VRAP is jointly run by the VA and the Department of Labor (DOL) for unemployed veterans. The program provides retraining for veterans hardest hit by current economic conditions.
VRAP provides 12 months of training assistance to unemployed veterans who must:
be at least 35, but no more than 60 years old;
be unemployed (as determined by the DOL);
have an other than dishonorable discharge;
not be eligible for any other VA educational benefits;
not be receiving VA compensation benefits due to unemployability; and
not be enrolled in a Federal or State job-training program.
Participants must be enrolled in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school. The program must lead to an associate degree, non-college degree, or a certification, and train the veteran for a high-demand occupation.
C. What is not income
1. Vocational rehabilitation
Payments made as part of a VA program of vocational rehabilitation are not income (SI 00815.050C), including any augmentation for dependents.
EXCEPTION: Subsistence allowances received during vocational rehabilitation may be augmented, but the dependent’s portion is not income.
2. Withdrawal of contributions
Any portion of a VA educational benefit that is a withdrawal of the veteran’s own contribution is conversion of a resource and is not income. However, any portion of the withdrawal that is retained into the month following the month of receipt is a countable resource.
D. What VA educational benefits are countable income
VA educational benefits are unearned income, other than those payments identified in SI 00830.306C.1. and SI 00830.306C.2. However, payments made by VA to pay for tuition, books, fees, tutorial services, or any other necessary educational expenses are excluded from income. For additional information related to this exclusion, see SI 00830.455.
In addition, any portion of the VA educational payment designated as a stipend for shelter is countable income.
NOTE: The $20 general exclusion applies to countable VA educational benefits and these payments are subject to deeming.
E. Augmented benefits
The VA typically considers the existence of dependents when determining a veteran's eligibility for educational benefits. An augmented benefit is an increase in benefit payment that a veteran receives because of a dependent. For a discussion of augmentation, see SI 00830.314.
For SSI purposes, only that portion of an educational payment that is income to the veteran obtaining the education is subject to the educational expenses exclusion as described in SI 00830.455. The augmented portion, which is income to the dependent, is not subject to the educational expenses exclusion.
F. Acceptable evidence
Accept the following, in the order listed, as documentation of type, amount, and frequency of payments:
A VA award letter or comparable document in the veteran or dependent’s possession; or
An SSA-L1103-U3, Supplemental Security Income Request for Information, from the Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO).
For more information about