Where to find education benefits for military family members

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The men and women who serve our country in uniform are eligible for a number of educational benefits in exchange for their service. It’s only fair: they offer their blood, sweat and tears to defend the nation, and the nation contributes resources to help them become better soldiers, or re-join the civilian world. However, service members aren’t the only people making sacrifices on behalf of the military: their family members do as well.

The U.S. government understands that military families are an important support network for its service members, and offers several benefits to help keep these families stable and functioning during deployment. These include educational benefits and career-planning advice.

Who can benefit

Only immediate family members of a service member can claim military education benefits. Immediate family includes the spouse and dependent children. Cousins, uncles, aunts, parents and siblings don’t qualify.

If you are the husband or wife of a service member and wish to claim benefits, you cannot be legally separated from your military spouse when you apply. Dependent children can include biological children and step-children. In some cases, nieces or nephews may also qualify if they are dependent on the service member. Always check with the agency or service branch to confirm eligibility requirements before applying for aid.

Sources of education benefits

While military family member benefits will defray the cost of training significantly, there may still be a gap between the assistance you qualify for and the total cost of your education. Fortunately, accepting military family benefits doesn’t disqualify you from looking for aid elsewhere. You can qualify for benefits from a number of different places. In addition to government or service branch-sponsored assistance, for example, you can also apply for private scholarships or loans.

Here are a few common sources of aid offered by the U.S. government and the various service branches:

Survivor and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program: Administered by the Veterans Affairs office, this award offers assistance for up to 45 months of degree courses, certification programs, diplomas or on-the-job training for spouses or dependent children. Additionally, spouses can use this award toward distance learning, such as an online degree program.

Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts: The Department of Defense offers up to $3,000 per year toward training for “portable career” skills. This award can be renewed once, for a total of $6,000 toward education.

General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program: This award, for the sons, daughters, or spouses of active-duty or retired or deceased Air Force service personnel, offers $2,000 per year toward direct educational costs. The eligible family members must demonstrate financial need and be residing in the United States.

Stateside Spouse Education Assistance Program (SSEAP): For the spouses of active-duty members of the Army who reside in the U.S., this program offers up to $2,500 per academic year toward education costs. If your employer offers tuition assistance, you can still apply for this award to cover the cost of materials, books and other education-related expenses.

Spouse Tuition Aid Program (STAP): Sponsored by the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, this program offers financial aid to qualifying spouses of active-duty Navy or Marine Corps members stationed abroad. Spouses enrolled in an undergraduate program can receive up to $1,500 per academic year, while graduate students can qualify for up to $1,750 in benefits.

This list is merely a sample of some of the more well-known forms of assistance offered. To find out more, contact staff at your installation, or visit the VA online at www.va.gov.

Transferring post-9/11 G.I. bill benefits

The G.I. Bill signed into law in 2008 offers new education support. This includes the right to transfer unused G.I. Bill benefits to one’s spouse or children. In order to transfer your benefits, you must have served at least six years prior to Aug. 1, 2009, and must have agreed to serve at least four more years.

Online education: a solution for military families on the move

It can be difficult to complete your education when you need to move every few years (or more often). Fortunately, online education makes it possible to head to class wherever you have an Internet connection (and whenever you have some time to yourself). Many universities offering online degree programs can accept benefits from the VA or Department of Defense, as well as G.I. Bill benefits. If you want to pursue your degree online, and are interested in applying for private or service branch-sponsored assistance, make sure you check that online college education can be paid for with your award before you submit your application.

Information in this article was provided by Colorado Technical University. Contact CTU today if you’re interested in developing marketable knowledge and career-relevant skills with an industry-current degree program. (CTU does not guarantee employment or salary.)

Courtesy of ARAcontent