2017 Changes to Survivor Education Benefits

After quickly passing both the House of Representatives and Senate this summer, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 became law on Aug. 12.

TAPS joined more than 25 other veteran service organizations (VSOs) in support of the new GI Bill, which represents the largest overhaul package for the Post 9/11 GI Bill since its inception in 2008. Of the $3.4 billion package, $1 billion has been earmarked for upgrades to survivor education benefits under Chapter 33 (Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Fry Scholarship) and Chapter 35 (Dependents’ Education Assistance).

 

GI Bill Changes

 

Provisions of the GI Bill that affect surviving military family members are:

  • Yellow Ribbon Program for Fry Scholarship recipients: Surviving children and spouses who are receiving the Fry Scholarship and attending a private university will be able to tap into additional tuition assistance to help offset the difference in tuition through the Yellow Ribbon Program. This provision goes into effect Aug. 1, 2018.
  • Consolidation and increase of DEA: Survivors using DEA will see an increase of $200 per month, bringing the rates to $1,224 per month. New survivors (losses after Jan. 1, 2018) will only be eligible for 36 months of benefits, just like for all other educational programs provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This will go into effect Oct. 1, 2018.
  • Changes to transferability: If the veteran transferred the Post 9/11 GI Bill before passing, the beneficiaries already listed will be able to adjust the allocation of months among themselves. No new transferees may be added, and transfer must have already been completed before the death of the service member. Families will be allowed to make these changes beginning on Aug. 1, 2018.
  • Removal of the 15-year deliminating date: All surviving spouses who are Fry eligible will no longer be held to the 15-year “use it or lose it” deliminating date. This provision is retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001. Spouses will remain eligible for Fry for life unless they remarry. Children whose parent died before Jan. 1, 2013, will still have until age 33 to use the Fry Scholarship, while children whose parent died after that date will be able to access it for life. This change goes into effect immediately.

More detailed information will be posted here as it becomes available; please bookmark this page and check back often. We know these changes are complicated and impact each family differently. If you have questions about how these benefits will impact you, please contact TAPS Education Support Services at education@taps.org or call 800-959-TAPS (8277) and we would be glad to answer your questions.