Tuesday , February 20 2024
The VA and every State offers tuition assistance to dependents of veterans. Unfortunately, the number of qualifiers is greater than the number of qualifying dependents.

Tuition Woes For Veterans and Their Dependents: What You Won’t Be Told

If you or someone you know is a veteran and was able to secure college tuition for their dependent(s), that’s great. It means you or the veteran you know was disabled enough and/or was in the right place at the right time and/or is so dirt poor s/he qualified for assistance by virtue of poverty. You are in the minority. There are hundreds of thousands of veterans’ dependents who will be graduating college with a boatload of loan debt because of the many cracks in the system.

Most glaring is the crack that requires a veteran’s dependent to be living in, a resident of, and going to school in the same state as the veteran. This is a requirement of every state in the union. It is most notably a requirement of every dependent of an active duty servicemember where said member is not deployed – and even then, there are still those states that will refuse dependents an in-state rate. If this first requirement is not met, all else is lost – and the dependent will be graduating with the aforementioned boatload of debt unless his/her family income is at or below poverty level.

The second most glaring crack is the amount of tuition debt incurred between the time a veteran retires (or separates from service) and the day a disability percentage is determined by the Veterans Administration (VA). The process of determining a disability percentage can take anywhere from six months to over a year. If the percentage of disability is not great enough or no disability is found, the applicant will be refused assistance.

While the veteran is waiting for a disability percentage verdict from the Veterans Administration, the dependent does not qualify for any program offered to the dependents of veterans. The veteran can fill out the application and be reimbursed for tuition paid (from the day of application) after a qualifying verdict has been reached, however, research by this writer has not found this to have happened in even one case.

This is primarily because most veterans cannot afford to pay their dependents’ tuition upfront and await reimbursement. The dependent (and/or the veteran) is then in the position of having to take out loans unless their income is at or below poverty level. Any tuition paid by any means other than out of the veteran’s pocket while the veteran awaits a verdict does not qualify for reimbursement.

Only the Army allows transfer of GI Bill benefits to dependents, and there are many cracks here as well. The Air Force and Navy have such strict conditions for transferring benefits that it negates any benefit that could be had by doing so.

The third most glaring crack is the veteran’s income. While no state can (or will?) tell you what their income cutoff is (trust me, the figure changes just by hanging up, calling back, and speaking to a different representative at the same number in any given state), the most common experience is rejection based on too much income. Any income the dependent makes counts toward total income.

While this may seem fair enough, a veteran making $50k a year (regardless of family size), combined with a dependent’s minimum wage income puts the application in the trash, rejected by too much income. Poverty level income appears to be the only level of income wherein a veteran can expect to receive any kind of assistance with his/her dependent’s tuition. It should be noted that at poverty level, a veteran’s status as a veteran is irrelevant. S/he would qualify for assistance based on the low income anyway.

The fourth, and by no means final, glaring crack is timing. Because tuition assistance to military members and veterans is based on a set of specific criteria, one can easily find oneself in the position of having tuition money one day and slammed with tuition bills the next. This happens most frequently with those whose children are in college before and after a member retires.

All of this is further hampered if the veteran secures a job overseas making as little as $50k a year and his/her dependent(s) attends college in the States. You can kick this up another notch with the knowledge that every state in the union will refuse in-state rates for up to a year to any dependent of an American citizen who has worked for the United States government for more than six months. This means the dependent is the resident of no state for tuition purposes.

Anyone in the know is welcome to refute these statements. It would be great if anyone who cared to do so would provide direct links to the page containing the qualifying criteria that differs from what has been presented here – and if you’re feeling froggy, the URL of the application would also be nice. Please provide the direct link to the page in question, not the pages that leads to a series of links before the page can be found. If people wanted this kind of runaround, they'd just call the VA or any dependent tuition assistance program.

It should come as no surprise to anyone if comments left by those in the know conflict with each other. Those who do leave comments are welcome to come back and check to see if anyone who is also in the know has commented contrarily. Any refutation that doesn't result in tuition assistance for every honorably discharged veteran’s dependent (excluding the nine veterans who are millionaires) does nothing but prove the point.

About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.

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