One of the least known benefits is an education benefit available to children of veterans. A child of a veteran with a disability rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs may qualify to attend any California community college, state college or state university tuition-free.
This benefit applies to biological children, step-children and those who are adopted. There is no age limit. Eligibility is based on the student’s income. For the current academic year, the income cap is $12,752, using 2017 income.
This program applies only to California public schools.
The program also applies to spouses of veterans who have been rated 100 percent disabled, and for them there is no income cap.
The veteran does not have to be substantially disabled. In fact, a veteran may be rated if he or she has any condition that began in the military, including hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or even a scar from an injury or treatment while on active duty. A scar from having an appendix removed would qualify!
In 2018, a total of 67 students in Napa County used this benefit, saving an estimated $375,426 in tuition and other state-wide fees. There are about 11,000 veterans in Napa County, so this has to be one of the most underused benefits. Applications are processed at the Napa County Veterans Service Office at 650 Imperial Way.
Another important education benefit applies to the spouse and children of a veteran who has been rated 100 percent “service connected” disabled by the VA. Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA), often referred to as Chapter 35 education, is very similar to the GI Bill.
DEA can be used for most college programs, public or private, including business, technical or vocational programs. It can be used to cover certification tests, and can be used in conjunction with apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs.
There is an age limit for this program for children but not spouses. A child cannot have reached age 26 before applying, although that limit is increased month-for-month if the child has military service.
Generally, the program covers 45 months of benefits, but in some circumstances that can be increased. This program can also be used for part-time schooling.
The DEA program pays a monthly full-time rate of $1,224 and is tax-exempt.
There is also a Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship (Fry Scholarship) for children and spouses of service members who died in the line of duty after Sept. 10, 2001. This benefit includes tuition and fees, books and supplies stipend and a monthly housing allowance.
Applications for DEA and the Fry Scholarship are usually handled by the veteran’s adviser at the educational institution.
The George and Gwendolyn Goodin Endowment Fund provides one-year college and university scholarships to Napa County residents who are military veterans, or Napa County residents who are dependents of military veterans who died while in active service. The number of scholarships awarded and the amount of each scholarship will be determined by the Fund’s Scholarship Selection Committee, and the value of each scholarship will typically range from $1,000 to $5,000.
Candidates must be attending, or planning to attend, a two- or four-year college/university pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies, or a vocational college (the school you plan to attend may be outside of Napa County).
This scholarship fund is administered by Napa Valley Community Foundation. Questions regarding the scholarship should be directed to Ellen Drayton, manager of grants administration and scholarships, at 707-254-9565 ext.14 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veterans with a service-connected disability that impedes continuing in a current vocation may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation to help with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job seeking skills coaching. Other services may be provided to assist veterans in starting their own businesses or independent living services for those who are severely disabled and unable to work in traditional employment.
The number one reason veterans don’t get their benefits is they are unaware of the benefit. The Napa County Veterans Service Office, located at 650 Imperial Way in Napa, helps veterans and their dependents learn about their benefits, and provides complete case management in applying for benefits, at no cost.
There’s a monthly orientation to veterans benefits held at 1 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. There is also a Vet Connect program that connects veterans and dependents with an array of services and assistance. To learn more, call the Napa County Veterans Service Office at 707-253-4558.