Two years ago today, my father passed away. He was a disabled Vietnam veteran who fought hard to do good for the world and championed veteran’s causes. It took him over twenty years to get his benefits. But when he finally did, my mother and I were able to get family education benefits for me to complete graduate school. We could get them because my dad was 100 percent permanently and totally disabled.

Here’s what you need to know about veteran’s education from the federal government and your state.

You Must Have all Paperwork and Follow Up

The most important piece of paperwork you need is the DD214, the honorable discharge form your mom, dad or spouse received when they left the armed services. Active duty service members will not have a DD214. You generally won’t have access to federal education benefits if you’re related to a healthy, active duty service member. But, you should still check into special scholarships for military families.

You Have Advocates that Can Help You

There is a variety of people who can help you with filling out the necessary paperwork and following up with the veteran’s administration. Colleges and universities have a specific person dedicated to helping you figure out your best options for military service members, veterans, and qualifying family members to receive financial assistance. These representatives are generally located inside admissions or registration. You can also go to or call 888-442-4451.

 Your State May Offer You a Few Hundred per Month to Full Tuition

State benefits can supplement the money you get from the federal government, or give you more when you run out. The amount varies. For instance, Texas has a program where 144 credits are pad for, while New York offers $450 annually. You can find out about your state’s benefit amounts and rules by calling a local college or university’s veterans’ representative, or by checking your state veteran’s affairs website.

State Requirements Vary Widely in Who Qualifies for Benefits

Generally, you have to be a resident of the same state from which your family member enlisted in the armed services. Not all states have programs. Some states will cover family members of active duty service members, while others provide benefits only for family members of veterans. For some states, you may also have to be an active duty service member for the family of a diseased veteran. Double check all rules before counting on funds.

Familywise note: Nevada has a special 529 plan offer that gives X to family members of service members. Always look at all scholarships and offers specific to veterans and family members. Talk to school counselors and other military families about opportunities. You may find out about other savings for college strategies, too. Paying for college often involves multiple strategies and sources of funds.