Citation Nr: 18160613
Decision Date: 12/28/18	Archive Date: 12/27/18

DOCKET NO. 15-18 701A
DATE:	December 28, 2018
ORDER
Entitlement to an extension of the delimiting date for education benefits under Title 38, Chapter 35 of the United States Code, Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) beyond September [redacted], 2013 is denied.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The appellant was granted eligibility for DEA benefits in July 2007; she was informed that her delimiting date was September [redacted], 2013.
2. The appellant did not suspend her program of education due to circumstances beyond her control. 
CONCLUSION OF LAW
The criteria for an extension of the delimiting date for education benefits under Title 38, Chapter 35 of the United States Code, DEA, beyond September [redacted], 2013, have not been met.  38 U.S.C. §§ 3501, 3512; 38 C.F.R. §§ 21.3021, 21.3040, 21.3041, 21.3043.
REASONS AND BASES FOR FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION
Entitlement to an extension of the delimiting date for DEA education benefits beyond September [redacted], 2013.
Basic eligibility for DEA benefits is established in one of several ways, including being a child of a Veteran who has a permanent and total disability evaluation. 38 U.S.C. § 3501(a)(1)(A)(ii); 38 C.F.R. § 21.3021(a)(1)(iii).  In this case, the appellant’s eligibility for DEA benefits derived from her status as the child of a permanently and totally disabled Veteran.  The record reflects that the Veteran was awarded basic eligibility for DEA benefits under Chapter 35, effective May 3, 2002, prior to the appellant’s 18th birthdate. 
The basic beginning date for the utilization of DEA benefits by an eligible child of a Veteran is either his or her 18th birthday or the date of his or her successful completion of secondary schooling, whichever is the earlier date.  38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(a).  This beginning date may be delayed in certain situations, including when the Veteran’s permanent and total disability rating is assigned after the child reaches age 18, but before the child becomes 26 years of age.  38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(b)(2)(ii).  However, in the present case the Veteran’s permanent and total disability rating was assigned by an October 2002 rating decision effective May 3, 2002, which is before the appellant reached 18 years of age (September [redacted], 2005). 
The basic ending date for DEA benefits is the child’s 26th birthday.  38 U.S.C. § 3512; 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(c).  In the present case the appellant was born on September [redacted], 1987, as such, her 26th birthday occurred on September [redacted], 2013 and this is her delimiting date. 
The ending date can be extended if, among other things, the child suspends his or her program due to conditions determined by VA to have been beyond her control; for example, if immediate family obligations beyond her control require her to take employment, or pursuit of her program is precluded because of her own illness, or she is ordered to active military duty or involuntarily ordered to full-time National Guard duty.  38 U.S.C. § 3512; 38 C.F.R. §§ 21.3041(g), 21.3043.  No person is eligible for educational assistance beyond his or her 31st birthday, except as provided under 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(g)(2).  In no event may educational assistance be provided after the period of entitlement has been exhausted.
The record reflects that the appellant filed a VA Form 22-5490, Dependents Application for Education Benefits and was granted eligibility for benefits under the DEA program in July 2007.  The appellant was informed that her delimiting date was September [redacted], 2013, the date of her 26th birthday.  
In this case, the appellant’s basic eligibility for DEA benefits as the Veteran’s child is not in dispute, as she has been found eligible for these benefits.  Rather, the dispute in this case is the delimiting date for such benefits.
The appellant contends that she should be granted an extension of her delimiting date because she had a difficult time completing school due to laptop issues and personal issues.  The appellant indicated she was a stay at home mother and care taker for her grandmother, which made it difficult to attend school.  See August 2013 appellant statement, December 2014 notice of disagreement, June 2015 appellant statement, and July 2016 appellant statement.  Specifically, the appellant noted that she had to withdraw from the National American University due to laptop issues and to continue care for her grandmother.  See November 2012 appellant statement.  
As indicated above, the exception under 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(g) to permit an extension for circumstances beyond an eligible person’s control is when it results in the suspension of his or her course of study.  The appellant was enrolled in school for various terms from March 2005 to October 2013.  See July 2007, September 2009, and September 2010 certificates of eligibility.  The Veteran did withdraw from classes.  In May 2012 the appellant withdrew from courses due to a laptop issue and personal issues.  See Dependents Request for Change of Program or Place of Training application.  However, the appellant was then able to start a new course of study shortly thereafter and completed her business degree in October 2013.  Specifically, in an August 2013 statement the appellant noted that she was completing her business degree and was obtaining all A’s.  See August 2013 appellant statement.  
The Board acknowledges the appellant’s contention that she was caring for her grandmother and son and therefore the completion of school was difficult.  However, as noted above she was still able to complete a degree simultaneously. 
In addition, the Board acknowledges the appellant’s contention that her award of education benefits should be extended for one year because she graduated from high school at the age of 19 rather than 18.  See June 2015 VA Form 9.  However, the beginning date for the utilization of DEA benefits by a child of a Veteran is the earlier of her 18th birthday or the date of his or her successful completion of secondary schooling.  38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(a).  In the instant case, the appellant’s 18th birthday (September [redacted], 2005) is earlier than the date she successfully completed secondary school (February 7, 2007).  As such, 38 C.F.R. § 21.3041(a) specifically states that her beginning date of eligibility must be her 18th birthday although she did not complete secondary school until she was 19. 
The Board is sympathetic to the appellant’s position and the contentions she has advanced in support of her claim.  Nevertheless, the Board is constrained to follow the specific provisions of law regarding the circumstances in which the delimiting date for DEA benefits may be extended, and there is nothing in the record to show that any apply in this case.  Consequently, the Board must find that there is no legal authority to extend the appellant’s delimiting date for DEA benefits beyond the September [redacted], 2013 date.  


Therefore, the appellant’s request for an extension of the delimiting date for DEA education benefits beyond September [redacted], 2013 must be denied.

 
Nathan Kroes
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	C. Biggins, Associate Counsel 

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