Monday, April 16, 2012

VA Benefits and Funding for Accredited Colleges in Social Work

This article was written by June Olsen for the Social Work Podcast. June contacted me and asked if she could write an article for the Social Work Podcast about veteran's benefits. I thought this was a very important issue, having had a very thought-provoking conversation with Anthony Hassan on the role of schools of social work and the military (Episode 68: The Training and Education of Military Social Workers, and Episode 69: Cultural Considerations in Military Social Work). June was kind enough to write a brief summary of current benefits that are available to vets through the VA. There is no audio for this blog post. If you have questions about educational funding for veterans, please contact June at

Providing an education for armed forces veterans returning from service is key to ensuring a smooth transition for vets aiming to transition back to a civilian lifestyle. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or the VA, funds a number of activities that support the educational pursuits of veterans and their dependents that study social work, whether through direct financial assistance or program support at different traditional and online colleges.

In February 2011, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on the educational benefits distributed by the VA to veterans seeking higher education in America. The report found that total educational benefits, including those paid to veterans studying social work, was $9 billion for the 2010 fiscal year. Most of these funds were distributed through scholarship opportunities funded by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Most of these educational benefits are distributed by the VA through partnerships with state approving agencies, or SAAs. SAAs provide review of educational institutions and approve individual colleges and universities as accredited for VA funding. These findings, plus enrollment numbers at approved schools, typically dictate how much aid a school can distribute to students eligible for educational benefits through the VA. During the 2010 fiscal year, the U.S. GAO estimated that VA educational benefits were extended to more than 700,000 individual students.

Educational benefits distributed by the VA through the Post-9/11 GI Bill are sent both to the school to directly cover tuition and other fees and to the student to cover housing payments. Eligible students attending public institutions can receive a maximum reimbursement of all tuition and housing expenses while students attending private schools have their benefits capped at $17,500 per academic year, according to information published on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Veterans who are eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits with at least 10 years of service in the armed forces may request a transfer of their educational benefits to a child, a spouse or a combination of both. The amount of VA educational funding received is tied to the length of service completed by the veteran. Along with tuition and housing, eligible students may receive an annual books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000 or a $500 stipend for students relocating to school from rural areas.

Most of the educational benefits provided by the VA to veterans of the armed forces are not typically limited to degree programs in social work. However, the VA does support special programs that offer educational benefits for social workers employed by the department who want to increase their education in social work.

One such program is offered in partnership with the Gerontological Society of America, announced through the VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations. PhD-level social workers employed by the Veterans Health Administration can receive funding for two years of mentored research in the Hartford Geriatric Social Work Scholars Program. Eligible students must have at least one graduate degree from an educational program focused on social work and must be able to prove an interest in health issues related to aging and geriatrics.

Social work students who believe that they may be eligible for educational benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs should visit their school’s Office of Veterans Affairs. Most higher learning institutions which have been approved for VA educational benefits have an office operated by the VA which is responsible for educating students about programs of interest or financial aid opportunities. Representatives at these offices will help students’ research funding opportunities, set up direct deposits for awarded funds or assist with enrollment verification.

If you have questions about educational funding for veterans, please contact June Olsen at

APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast: Olsen, J. (2012, April 16). VA Benefits and Funding for Accredited Colleges in Social Work. Social Work Podcast. Podcast retrieved Month Day, Year, from

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