Veterans’ Disability Benefits and Character of Discharge

Veterans’ Disability Benefits and Character of Discharge

In order to be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits, it is a basic requirement that the veteran must have a certain “character of discharge.” That is, the veteran seeking veterans’ disability benefits must, in general, have separated from the service under honorable conditions. In most cases, it is a relatively black-and-white determination as to whether a particular veteran’s discharge qualifies him or her to receive disability benefits. There are some cases, however, where a veteran can receive benefits even with a discharge under other than honorable conditions.

The Military’s “Character of Discharge” is Generally Binding

Upon the completion of a term of military service, the military will issue a discharge. The possible discharges include:

·      Honorable discharge;

·      General discharge under honorable conditions;

·      Other than honorable (OTH) discharge;

·      Bad conduct discharge;

·      Dishonorable discharge; and

·      Entry-level separation.

The first two types of discharges listed above generally qualify the recipient for veterans’ benefits. The other four types of discharges do not typically entitle the recipient to disability benefits. If the military has issued an honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions, this determination is binding on the VA. Any other type of discharge requires the VA to find that the discharge was “under conditions other than dishonorable.”

Statutory Bars to Benefits

Unless the veteran is found to have been insane at the time of committing an offense resulting in discharge from the military, the following conditions mean that a veteran is statutorily prohibited from receiving veterans’ disability benefits:

·      A sentence of a general court-martial;

·      A conscientious objector who refused to follow lawful military orders;

·      Desertion;

·      Being absent without leave (AWOL) for a continuous period of 180 days or more;

·      Resignation from the service by an officer for the good of the service.

·      Mutiny or spying;

·      Accepting an undesirable discharge to avoid trial by general court-martial; or

·      Conviction of a crime of moral turpitude.

Can a Veteran Change the Character of His or Her Discharge?

In certain situations, a veteran may be able to secure a change in the character of his or her discharge. In order to secure such a change, the veteran must show a Discharge Review Board that the character of his or her discharge is inequitable or improper. An “inequitable” characterization means that the character of discharge assigned is not consistent with military policies or traditions (such as a dishonorable discharge based on a minor traffic violation during a long period of honorable service). An “improper” discharge is one that is not consistent with laws or regulations. Although a veteran does not need the assistance of an attorney to file for such a change, an experienced veterans’ disability attorney can increase the odds of approval.

Contact Us to Obtain Veterans’ Disability Benefits

At the Klok Law Firm, LLC, we help veterans in the Mt. Pleasant and Charleston areas obtain the veterans’ disability benefits to which they are entitled. Even if you do not feel you qualify, allow us to evaluate the specifics of your case before giving up hope. Contact us at (843) 216-8860 for a free consultation.