If you served our country and now suffer from a service-related disability, you may be entitled to benefits–even if your discharge was not characterized as honorable. In general, VA benefits do not require an honorable discharge but an other than honorable discharge.
Unfortunately, many veterans lose out on critical benefits because they mistakenly believe they are not eligible. Not only may you qualify with discharges that fall short of honorable, but the classification is not set in stone. A military record can be corrected in some cases, allowing veterans to regain eligibility for government-funded programs.
Characterization of Veteran Discharge and Benefits
The characterization of discharge is an important factor in the benefits you may receive. Other factors can also affect eligibility including the type and length of military service, and other issues, like whether a veteran was psychologically unstable at the time of discharge.
According to Title 38 of the United States Code, a veteran who received any type of honorable discharge is eligible for VA health care, disability, and GI Bill benefits. They can also qualify for home loans and pensions. A general discharge under honorable conditions qualifies for VA health care and disability benefits but not GI Bill education benefits. If the discharge was other than honorable, a veteran may still be eligible, but the matter will be subject to a case-by-case determination.
Under the law, specific circumstances such as desertion or being a conscientious objector who refuses to perform duties will disqualify a veteran from benefits. However, in other cases, the determination is not an automatic bar to benefits–a successful appeal can change an unfavorable discharge classification.
Upgrading a Dishonorable Discharge
If your service was not classified as honorable, applying for benefits will trigger a review by the VA. This does not change the character of the discharge. However, a successful review can deem you eligible for medical, disability, and other benefits.
Further, a change in discharge classification is carried out by a review board. Each branch of the military has a board, with the Navy and Marine Corp. sharing a joint board. They have the power to upgrade a discharge characterization—provided it was not the result of a general court-martial.
Veterans bear the burden of proof and have the right to present evidence–an important step in proving that the discharge classification was in error. Helpful evidence can include military awards, character references, civilian employment history, military psychological treatment records, and positive service evaluations.
Find Help Securing Veteran Disability Benefits
The men and women who serve our country are sometimes unfairly denied the benefits they are due. If you have received an unfair decision on VA disability compensation, we are here to help. Mark Whitehead & Associates represents veterans at all levels of the appeals process.
If you have questions about your eligibility for VA benefits, contact us to speak with a veterans disability benefits claim attorney. We serve veterans across the nation, and initial consultations are always free of charge.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Applying for Benefits and Your Character of Discharge, https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/character_of_discharge.asp