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M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, Chapter 6, Section A – Notification of Potential Entitlement and School Attendance Policies

Overview


In This Section

This section contains the following topics:
Topic
Topic Name
1
2
3
4

1.  System-Generated Notices of Potential Entitlement to Benefits Based on School Attendance


Introduction

This topic contains information on system-generated notices of potential entitlement to benefits based on school attendance, including

Change Date

February 19, 2019

III.iii.6.A.1.a.Criteria for Paying Benefits Based on School Attendance

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays compensation, pension, or Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) to or for a Veteran’s child that is
  • between the ages of 18 and 23, and
  • in attendance at a VA-accredited school.
Reference:  For information on courses of instruction and school accreditation, seeM21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 6.A.2.

III.iii.6.A.1.b.Ages of Children When VA Sends Notification

As children to or for whom VA is currently paying benefits reach certain ages, system-generated notices of potential entitlement to benefits based on school attendance are automatically mailed to the child’s payee/parent.
If VA is paying
  • DIC to or for the child, notice is sent to the payee/parent
    • 60 days prior to the child’s 13th birthday
    • at the end of the month the child turns 16, and/or
    • 60 days prior to the child’s 18th birthday, or
  • any other benefit to or for the child, notice is sent to the payee/parent 60 days prior to the child’s 18th birthday.
Note:  No specific regional office (RO) action is required upon release of the system-generated notices.
Reference:  For information on adding dependents, see the

III.iii.6.A.1.c.Notification Prior to Age 13

The system-generated notice automatically sent to the payee/parent of a child, to or for whom VA is paying DIC, prior to the child’s 13th birthday, includes as an attachment VA Pamphlet 22-73-3Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA).
Note:  The notice
  • advises the payee/parent of the educational assistance available, and
  • stresses the importance of planning a high school curriculum to prepare the child for a suitable program of higher education or other post-high school training.

III.iii.6.A.1.d.Notification at Age 16

The system-generated notice automatically sent to the payee/parent of a child, to or for whom VA is paying DIC, at the end of the month the child turns 16, includes as attachments
VA Form 21P-8924, Application of Surviving Spouse or Child for REPS Benefits (Restored Entitlement Program for Survivors) is also sent to the payee/parent at this time if the individual on whose death the DIC award is based died
  • on active duty prior to August 13, 1981, or
  • as a result of a service-connected (SC) disability that was incurred or aggravated prior to August 13, 1981.
Reference:  For more information about the Restored Entitlement Program for Survivors (REPS), see M21-1, Part IX, Subpart i, 6.

III.iii.6.A.1.e.Notification Prior to Age 18

The system-generated notice automatically sent to the payee/parent of a child, to or for whom VA is paying any benefit, prior to the child’s 18th birthday, includes two copies of VA Form 21-674, Request for Approval of School Attendance.
If VA is paying DIC to or for the child (based on either an SC death or under 38 U.S.C. 1318), notice also includes as attachments
VA Form 21P-8924 is also sent to the payee/parent at this time if the individual on whose death the DIC award is based died
  • on active duty prior to August 13, 1981, or
  • as a result of an SC disability that was incurred or aggravated prior to August 13, 1981.
Reference:  For more information about REPS, see M21-1, Part IX, Subpart i, 6.

III.iii.6.A.1.f. How SOOs Are Alerted That System-Generation of a Notice Failed

Under certain circumstances, system-generation of the notice of potentialentitlement to benefits based on school attendance fails.  When this occurs, the station of origination (SOO) is alerted by the generation of an 800 series work item.  The message code for this work item is 820 882G, Age 18 School Letter Not Sent.
Note:  820 882G, Age 18 School Letter Not Sent, is the 800 series work item label assigned to the system failure regardless of which age-specific notice failed to generate.  ROs must review the beneficiary’s record to determine which specific notice should have been generated.
Reference:  For more information about 800 series work items, see

III.iii.6.A.1.g.SOO Responsibility When System-Generation of a Notice Fails

After an SOO learns that system-generation of the notice referenced in this topic failed, it must prepare a locally generated letter and send it to the appropriate payee/parent.
The table below explains what the SOO must include in the notice.
If the notice is for a child age …
Then the SOO must include in the notice …
13
16
18
Note:  If the payee is a corporate fiduciary, the fiduciary hub is responsible for handling notification. The appropriate fiduciary hub must be notified via e-mail when an 820 882G, Age 18 School Letter Not Sent, work item is received for a corporate fiduciary case.

III.iii.6.A.1.h.Language to Include in a Locally Generated Letter for a Child Turning Age 13

The following paragraphs must be included in a locally generated letter when the system-generated notice is not sent for a child about to reach the age of 13:
We are writing to you as the parent or guardian of a child who may be eligible for educational assistance under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  The enclosed pamphlet describes this benefit.
To profit most from the educational assistance provided by the Federal Government, the young person should plan his or her program of education carefully, beginning when he or she enters high school.  In many schools, there are counselors to help students in this planning and in considering their future educational and vocational goals.  If such counseling services are available in the school your child or ward attends, it is in his or her best interest to take full advantage of them during his or her high school years.
When the young person is ready to discuss using his or her VA benefits for education after high school, you should request an appointment for him or her with a VA counselor.  The counselor will give him or her any help he or she may need in developing an educational or vocational plan.  Such a plan may involve education at the college level, training in a technical or vocational school, a special training program (in the case of a handicapped young person), or employment.  The choice will depend on the individual’s own interests, aptitudes and abilities.
Generally, VA counseling may be provided any time after the eligible person reaches his or her 16th birthday or enters the junior year of high school.  For handicapped persons counseling services may be initiated at age 14, and for youths who drop out of high school, counseling about further educational, vocational or employment planning may be provided after compulsory school attendance age is reached.

III.iii.6.A.1.i.Language to Include in a Locally Generated Letter for a Child Who Has Turned Age 16

The following paragraphs must be included in a locally generated letter when the system-generated notice is not sent for a child who has turned 16:
The information found below and in the enclosed pamphlet on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits for education or training are for your child/ward who is now 16 years old.
Please see to it that your 16-year-old gets this important message.  Now is the time to make plans that will lead toward sound educational and vocational decisions.  To get the help of a VA counselor in this planning, the enclosed application should be completed and submitted as soon as possible.
PLANNING FOR YOUR FUTURE EDUCATION
We are writing to you because you may be eligible for educational benefits under the Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA) program.  The enclosed pamphlet gives information about this benefit.
DEA benefits are available for the following types of training: high school training (including deficiency and remedial or refresher training); college training; vocational or technical training; and on-the-job training.
Payments may begin after your 18th birthday.  However, you may be eligible for payments from an earlier date, if you have reached: the compulsory school attendance age under State law; or age 14 and require special restorative or vocational training due to physical or mental handicap.  To make a sound choice for your future education and career, you should start planning now.
Some things for you to consider.
What are your goals in continuing your education?
What are your interests, what do you like to do?
What are your special abilities?
What kinds of work would you find most interesting and rewarding?
What kinds of work could you do best?
What training is needed for such work?
Where can such training be obtained?
You may already have in mind some definite ideas for your future training that you have worked out with your school counselor and your family or guardian.  If not, or if you want additional assistance with your school and career planning and in the use of your VA educational benefits, you may get this help from professionally qualified VA counselors.  Counseling is provided without charge at our counseling location nearest your home.  However, travel to and from the place of counseling will be at your own expense unless you are not able to pay the cost of your travel.
If you wish to receive counseling now, you and your parent or guardian should fill out the enclosed application and send it to the appropriate address listed on the form.  You will then be informed about a counseling appointment.

III.iii.6.A.1.j.Language to Include in a Locally Generated Letter for a Child Turning Age 18

The following paragraphs must be included in a locally generated letter when the system-generated notice is not sent for a child about to reach the age of 18:
Your monthly payments are based on the continued entitlement of a child who will become 18 years of age on [enter date of child’s 18th birthday].
The current award will, therefore, be reduced/discontinued as of that date unless continued entitlement for or on account of this child is established as provided below.
You should also be advised that if continued entitlement is based on school attendance, the additional compensation payable will be in a higher amount than that paid for this child prior to age 18.
Payments may be made to or for a child after age 18 if he or she is enrolled in a course of education approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and until age 23 while such education continues or until marriage or death.  To claim this benefit, if you have not already done so, complete the enclosed VA form Approval of School Attendance (VA Form 21-674) in duplicate.  Return the original to the appropriate address as listed on the Where to Send Your Written Correspondence enclosure as soon as possible.  Keep the second copy for your records and future use.
Payments for or on account of this child may also be made if the child became permanently incapable of self-support because of mental or physical defect prior to age 18, during the continuance of such condition until marriage or death.  To claim this benefit, complete the enclosed VA form Declaration of Status of Dependents (VA Form 21-686c) and return it, along with medical evidence showing the child became permanently incapable of self-support before reaching the age of 18, to the appropriate address as listed on the Where to Send Your Written Correspondence enclosure.
 
If you are in receipt of income-based benefits, such as Veteran’s pension or Survivors Pension, and you are returning a form with or without the medical evidence referenced in the preceding paragraph, include a statement of the child’s income and net worth.  VA will adjust your payment as appropriate.
 
The child may also be entitled to Dependents’ Educational Assistance, a benefit payable in a higher amount, while attending an approved course of instruction as explained in the attached Dependents Educational Assistance Program VA Pamphlet 22-73-2.  To claim this benefit, complete the enclosed application, Dependents’ Application for VA Educational Benefits (Under Provisions of chapters 33 and 35 of title 38, U.S.C.) VA Form 22-5490, and return it to the appropriate address listed on the form.
Note:  If the award is being paid to a custodian of the minor child, replace the opening sentence above, with the following sentence: You have been receiving payment on behalf of a child who will become 18 years of age on [enter date of child’s 18th birthday].

III.iii.6.A.1.k.  Language to Include in a Locally Generated Letter Regarding Eligibility for REPS Benefits

The following paragraphs must be included in a locally generated letter for possible REPS benefits when the system-generated notice is not sent for a child who
  • recently reached the age of 16, or
  • is about to reach the age of 18:
You are receiving dependency and indemnity compensation or educational assistance.  You may also be eligible for reinstatement of certain Social Security benefits that were eliminated by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 if you are the surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who:
(1) died on active duty before August 13, 1981; or
(2) died from a disability incurred or aggravated in service before August 13, 1981.
Before enactment of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, parent’s Social Security child-in-care benefits were paid to a parent until the parent’s youngest child became age 18.  Now parent child-in-care benefits are discontinued when the parent’s youngest child becomes age 16.  The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 also eliminated Social Security student benefits. Student benefits were formerly payable to a child who was between the ages of I8 and 22 and who was attending a postsecondary school full time.
Public Law 97-377 directs VA to reinstate the eliminated Social Security benefits to the surviving spouse or child of a Veteran who died under either of the conditions mentioned above.  If you believe that you qualify for reinstatement, you must apply by completing the enclosed VA Form 21-8924, Application of Surviving Spouse or Child for REPS Benefits (Restored Entitlement for Survivors).  If you are not sure that you qualify, please apply anyway.  We will be glad to determine whether you are eligible for reinstatement.
If you apply and you are a school child (age 18 through 21 and attending college level or other postsecondary school full time) please enter all periods of school attendance from your 18th birthday in Part II.
If you apply and you are a spouse with a child in your care (youngest child age 16 through 17), you need only complete Parts I and III.
Your regular VA benefits will not be affected if you become entitled to reinstatement of either parent child-in-care or student benefits.  You may receive both at the same time.
Please return your completed application to the address listed on the form.

2.  Policies Regarding School Attendance


Introduction

This topic contains information about VA’s policies regarding school attendance, for the purpose of paying compensation, pension, or DIC, including

Change Date

April 19, 2018

III.iii.6.A.2.a.  Using VA Form 21-674 to Establish Entitlement

Upon receipt of a request for benefits based on school attendance, send a locally generated letter to the claimant requesting completion of VA Form 21-674 in duplicate.  In the letter, instruct the claimant to
  • retain one copy of the form
  • return a signed copy to VA, and
  • use the reverse side of the retained copy to report to VA any future change in the child’s status, such as
    • discontinuance of an approved course of instruction or training, or
    • marriage of the school child.
Note:  Before sending VA Form 21-674, insert the following in the appropriate fields on the form:
  • Veteran’s name and file number
  • child’s name, and
  • name and address of the appropriate evidence intake center.

III.iii.6.A.2.b.   VA Standards for Courses of Instruction

To meet VA standards, a course of instruction must
  • require attendance of not less than the equivalent of three regular class sessions, daytime or evening, per week, and
  • lead to the achievement of a training or educational objective (such as a degree, diploma, or certificate) in a period of time commonly accepted by standard institutions as adequate for that purpose.
Important:  According to 38 CFR 21.4200(g), one “regular class session” must consist of at least
  • one 50-minute period of academic instruction
  • two 50-minute periods of laboratory instruction, or
  • three 50-minute periods of workshop training.
Example:  A course of instruction meets the attendance requirement whether it consists of
  • one hour of academic instruction three times a week, or
  • three hours of academic instruction once a week.
Notes:
  • Authority to approve an award based on school attendance includes authority for approving the corresponding course of instruction.
  • Courses of instruction taught under home school programs for grades kindergarten through 12 meet VA standards as long as the home school is an approved educational institution.
Reference:  For more information on home schools as approved educational institutions, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 6.A.3.

III.iii.6.A.2.c.Criteria for Paying Benefits Based on School Attendance

VA may pay benefits to or for a student who is attending school, provided the student’s
Note:  Any course of instruction offered by a VA-accredited school meets VA’s standards for courses of instruction.

III.iii.6.A.2.d.Advisory Opinions on the Validity of a Student’s School Attendance

Submit a request to VA Central Office for an advisory opinion on the validity of a student’s “school attendance” if
  • the criteria under M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 6.A.2.c are not met, but
  • the course of instruction is otherwise meritorious and appears to be directed toward the achievement of a definite educational objective.
Exception:  Do not request an opinion when the course of instruction clearly does not meet the attendance requirements in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 6.A.2.b.
Reference:  For information on how to submit a request for an advisory opinion to VA Central Office, see M21-1, Part III, Subpart vi, 1.A.1.

III.iii.6.A.2.e.Accreditation Requirement for Domestic Schools

A domestic school is accredited for VA purposes if the school is recognized as standard and accredited by
  • the authority established within the State for determining educational standards, or
  • an institution or State authority recognized by VA to be equally as competent to determine such standards as the State authority.

III.iii.6.A.2.f.Determining the Accreditation of a Local School

Use the following resources, in the order listed, to determine the accreditation of a local school for VA purposes:
  • lists that each RO maintains of the accredited schools located within its jurisdiction
  • Web-Enabled Approval Management System (WEAMS), and
  • other sources, such as
    • a recent issue of the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Directory, Part 3, Higher Education
    • the Official Directory published by the Accrediting Commission for Business Schools, and
    • State authorities or other institutions that VA recognizes as competent to determine whether a school meets educational standards for accreditation.
Note:  Because access to WEAMS is limited, it may be necessary to ask an Education Service employee to search this system for accreditation information.
Reference:  For information on using WEAMS, see the

III.iii.6.A.2.g.Determining the Accreditation of a School in the Jurisdiction of Another SOO

Use WEAMS to determine whether a school in the jurisdiction of another SOO is accredited.  As an alternative, contact the SOO by e-mail or telephone to request information required to determine whether the school is accredited.
Important:  When contacting the other SOO, indicate the information is being requested to determine entitlement to compensation, pension, or DIC (whichever is applicable) based on school attendance.
  • If the contact is by e-mail, upload a copy of the e-mail into the electronic claims folder (eFolder).
  • If the contact is made by telephone, document the telephone conversation on a VA Form 27-0820, Report of General Information, and upload the form into the eFolder.
Rationale:  The standards for courses of instruction under the compensation, pension, and DIC programs are less stringent than those for education assistance under
Note:  Because access to WEAMS is limited, it may be necessary to ask an Education Service employee to search this system for accreditation information.
Reference:  For information on using WEAMS, see the

III.iii.6.A.2.h.Accreditation Requirement for Foreign Schools

A foreign school is accredited for VA purposes if the school is recognized as standard and accredited for the student’s specific course of instruction by the authority established within the country for determining educational standards, such as

III.iii.6.A.2.i.Foreign Countries With No Accrediting Authority

If no recognized accrediting authority exists for a specific foreign school, the American Consular Officer is authorized to consult with any recognized institution of higher learning for professional advice concerning the acceptability of the school.
Under these circumstances, the determination as to accreditation for VA purposes is made as follows:
  • In the Philippines, the Manila RO Education Liaison Representative makes the determination.
  • When a beneficiary submits VA Form 21-674 through the local U.S. embassy or consulate in a foreign country other than the Philippines, the American Consular Officer makes the determination as the approving official.
  • In all other cases, the Veterans Service Center Manager of the Pittsburgh RO (station code 311), who maintains information concerning the accreditation status of foreign schools, makes the determination.

III.iii.6.A.2.j.Children That Are Wholly Supported at the Expense of the Federal Government While Attending School

Per 38 CFR 3.667(f)(2), VA may not pay compensation, pension, or DIC to or for a child who is

  • at least 18 years old, and
  • wholly supported at the expense of the Federal government while attending school.
The phrase wholly supported at the expense of the Federal governmentmeans the government pays for the student’s
  • tuition
  • housing
  • meals
  • suitable clothing
  • medical attention
  • books
  • supplies, and
  • other necessities.
Examples:  The following are examples of schools where students are wholly supported at the expense of the Federal government:
Notes:
  • Pay compensation, pension, or DIC to or for an eligible school child throughout a routine school break (then stop paying benefits to or for the child effective the date the child began attending a school where he/she is wholly supported at the expense of the Federal government) if the child
    • turned 18 during the school break or was at least 18 but less than 23 throughout the school break
    • attended school during the session that immediately preceded the break, and
    • was not wholly supported at the expense of the Federal government while attending school during the session that immediately preceded the break.
  • VA may pay benefits to or for a child that is under the age of 18 and attending a school where he/she is wholly supported at the expense of the Federal government.
  • If it becomes necessary to contact a school to determine whether a student is wholly supported at the expense of the Federal government, document the communication as follows:
    • If the contact was by e-mail, upload a copy of the e-mail into the eFolder.
    • If the contact was by telephone,
      • document the telephone conversation on VA Form 27-0820, and
      • upload the form into the eFolder.
  • If the information referenced in the preceding bullet is obtained using a school’s official Internet site, upload a copy of the information or a screenshot of the relevant web page into the eFolder.

III.iii.6.A.2.k.Service Academies

There are five U.S. service academies:
  • United States Military Academy in West Point, New York
  • United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland
  • United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut
  • United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, and
  • United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

III.iii.6.A.2.l.  Service Academy Preparatory Schools

There are four U.S. service academy preparatory schools:
  • United States Military Academy Preparatory School in West Point, New York
  • Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island
  • Coast Guard Academy Scholar Program in New London, Connecticut, and
  • United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

3.  Home School Programs


Introduction

This topic contains information about home school programs, including

Change Date

February 13, 2012

III.iii.6.A.3.a.Home Schools as Educational Institutions

A home school is considered an educational institution if the school operates in compliance with the compulsory laws of the State in which the school is located.
Notes:
  • VA does not award educational institution status to home schools beyond grade 12.
  • If a home school is considered an educational institution, the courses of instruction it provides are also approved.
Reference:  For more information on home schools as educational institutions, see

III.iii.6.A.3.b.Evidence That Establishes a Home School as an Educational Institution

In order for VA to recognize a home school as an educational institution, the claimant must provide documentation verifying the
  • home school is approved by the State authority that determines educational standards, or
  • student is registered and in good standing as a home-schooled student with
    • the local school district, or
    • another institution, organization, or entity (such as a non-traditional private school) that is registered with or recognized by the State in which the home school is located.
Note:  As an alternative to requesting documentation from the claimant, it is permissible to contact the local school district by telephone or e-mail to obtain oral or written verification from an appropriate local school official that the student is registered and in good standing as a home-schooled student.

4.  Periods of Enrollment and Entitlement


Introduction

This topic contains information on periods of entitlement to benefits based on school attendance, including

Change Date

March 16, 2018

III.iii.6.A.4.a.Children Who Turn 18 While Attending School

To continue paying benefits to or for a child who turns 18 during a school session, VA must receive a completed VA Form 21-674 within one year of the child’s 18thbirthday, showing the child was attending school on that date.

III.iii.6.A.4.b.Continuity of School Attendance During Breaks

Continuity of school attendance is not broken by holidays, vacation periods, or periods between school sessions when attendance is not normally required.

III.iii.6.A.4.c.  Children Who Turn 18 During a School Break

Do not develop for continuity of attendance if
  • a child turns age 18 during a normal school break, such as those described in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 6.A.4.b, and
  • the claimant submits a VA Form 21-674 showing the child
    • was attending school (any school, pursuing any course of instruction) immediately prior to the beginning of the school break, and
    • resumed/commenced a course of instruction at the end of the break.
Continuous attendance is affirmed if VA Form 21-674 shows
  • prior attendance
    • at the same or another school, and/or
    • in the same or a different course, and/or
  • the course terminated immediately prior to the break.
If VA Form 21-674 is received prior to resumption/commencement of a course of instruction at the end of a break, follow the instructions in M21-1, Part III, Subpart iii, 6.B.5.a.
Note:  Completion of a VA Form 21-674b, School Attendance Report, for the prior period of school attendance is not required.
References:  For more information on

III.iii.6.A.4.d.Continued Entitlement During a Summer Session

Entitlement to benefits as or for a school child continues during a summer session of school, regardless of whether or not the child attends classes during the summer session, as long as the session does not extend beyond a period of time commonly accepted as standard.
Note:  This policy applies even if
  • the school operates on a trimester basis, and
  • enrollment is deferred for the summer trimester, with entrance in the next regular school session.
Example:
Scenario:
  • VA removed a child from a Veteran’s award effective June 1, 2013, because the child stopped attending school in May of the same year.
  • On August 17, 2014, VA received a VA Form 21-674 from the Veteran that indicates the same child will resume her school attendance on August 24, 2013.

Result:  Add the child back onto the award effective June 1, 2013, because she was enrolled in the next regular school session after the summer break.

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