Surviving Spouse and Family Education Benefits

College student with computer

Surviving Spouses and Dependent children of fallen servicemembers or disabled veterans are often unaware of the many resources they have to assist with paying for their education. The following article will briefly explain some of the major resources at your disposal.

Survivors' and Dependents' Education Assistance Program

The Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA) program provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. If you are a spouse, you may take a correspondence course. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances.

Click here to learn more about the Dependents Education Assistance Program.

Marine GySgt John D. Fry Scholarship

The Fry Scholarship is an amendment to the Post-9/11 GI Bill that makes education benefits available to the surviving spouses and children of service members who die in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001.

Like Post-9/11 veterans, eligible surviving spouses and children attending school may receive full tuition coverage at state-operated colleges and universities, plus a monthly living stipend and book allowance under this program.

Click here to learn more about the Fry Scholarship.

State Provided Education Assistance Programs

Educational benefits for families, particularly the children of deceased, MIA, POW,  and disabled veterans, may be offered in your home state, or the state in which you plan to attend school. We have developed an on-line summary of educational benefits for veterans, surviving spouses and their dependents broken down by state.

Click here to learn more about State Education Benefits.

Survivor Scholarships and Grants

While looking for money for school many surviving spouses and their families overlook the over $300 million of military - and veteran - related scholarships and grants. These scholarships often go unclaimed due to the following misconceptions:

VA education benefits eliminate the need for scholarships and grants.

  • False - The truth is that the Survivor and Dependent Education Assistance program offers great benefits, but it may not cover everything. There are hundreds of scholarships and grants specifically designed to help cover education related costs, so you don't have to.

Scholarships are too difficult to win and applying requires too much work.

  • It is true that some scholarships require a written essay. But, it is important to remember that scholarship and grant applications vary widely, and some require nothing more than a short application. Besides you should think of it this way: It may be the only essay you ever get paid to write.

Scholarships are too difficult to find.

  • False - Many scholarships go unclaimed because students don't know where to look. Fortunately, there is a great online resource to help servicemembers find the scholarship and learn how, where, and when to apply. Visit the's Scholarship Finder today and get started on your way to finding free money for school.

Here are some quick tips to help your scholarship search:

  • Do your homework. Take advantage of the free online scholarship search at's Scholarship Finder. The Scholarship Finder lists over 1,000 scholarships from a variety of sources.
  • Don't limit yourself. You qualify for non-military related scholarships too. Visit your local library to find scholarship directories that list awards based on age, state of residence, cultural background, and field of study.
  • Search in your military community. Many service aid organizations and associations, like the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, offer scholarships, grants, and low interest loans to help cover education expenses.
  • It's never too soon to start your scholarship search. Many scholarship application deadlines are as early as a year in advance.

Find More Military-Friendly Scholarships 

Find more cash for school or get the lowdown on scholarships and education help available for your family. FastWeb can help. Visit to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Financial Student Aid

The federal government offers several Financial Student Aid Programs. These programs offer you extremely low interest loans and grants (free money). Unlike the GI Bill, these programs are paid through the school; however, like the GI Bill, Federal Student Aid is designed to assist you in meeting the cost of tuition, books, fees, and living expenses while you go to school. That means that once the school has taken its share, the remaining loan or grant balance goes to you.

Click here to learn more about the Federal Student Aid programs.

Service Aid Society Scholarships

Each of the service relief societies offer education support to surviving family members, see our Military Association Benefits page for details.

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