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February 9, 2009
Mr. W v. Department of Veteran Affairs
Veterans benefits denied because of homeschooling

Filed: May 21, 2004

Nature of Case: Mr. W is a retired veteran who receives disability benefits. He is entitled to additional benefits for each dependent. His son is now 18, but is still being homeschooled. Because the Veterans Administration is refusing to acknowledge homeschool students over 18 as "dependents," Mr. W has not been receiving the benefits that he is entitled to.

HSLDA appealed this decision on behalf of the Winklemons, and Attorney James Mason presented argued before a review hearing that Mr. Winkelman’s homeschool program is an “educational institution.” Shortly after these arguments the policy excluding homeschoolers was overruled in the Theiss decision (Home School Court Report May/June 2006 and July/August 2007).

Even though the policy excluding homeschoolers had been overruled, the panel was not convinced, and ruled on September 9, 2005 that benefits could not be extended since the Winkelmans’ homeschool program is not “accredited,” a requirement that the board had invented and which had no basis in statute or policy. This decision was appealed in 2006, the board again changed its terminology, concluding that the Winkelmans program needed to be “approved.” The only problem was that the DVA had no process for determining approval of secondary school, regardless of whether they were private schools, public schools, or homeschools.

Finally, after a new policy that includes homeschoolers was properly implemented, the Board of Veterans Appeals reinstated the benefits in question on November 18, 2008.

Last Updated: February 6, 2009