Other-Than-Honorable Discharges and Veterans' Benefits

Recently, a Seattle Times reporter investigated why many veterans are left without health-care and disability benefits after the close of their service. One reason that he found was that an other-than-honorable discharge barred some veterans from receiving veterans’ benefits. In the past four years, 20,000 men and women leaving the Army and Marines received an other-than-honorable discharge status.

Other-than-honorable discharges generally apply in situations where there is a “significant departure” from expected Military Services member conduct. “Acts or omissions” can also be grounds for other-than-honorable discharges. This discharge may disqualify a veteran from receiving VA benefits.

Some military members may receive the lesser discharge status because of conduct related to post-traumatic stress disorder.

An Army veteran fell into a trap when he returned from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his final year of service, he struggled with drug addiction and taking absences without leave (AWOL). He received a diagnosis of PTSD and received psychiatric care at Madigan Army Medical Center.

Upon separation, he received other-than-honorable discharge. Because of the discharge, the VA turned him away when he sought continued medical care. For those who receive other-than-honorable discharges a special health care rule applies.

Application for Health-Care Benefits

Generally, a veteran with other-than-honorable discharge is still eligible for “service incurred” or “service-aggravated disabilities,” according to federal regulations. Eligibility staff will likely need to make an administrative determination regarding the character of service once VA Form 7131 is submitted to the VA Regional Office for consideration.

Unfortunately, we do not currently assist with discharge upgrades.

Source: Seattle Times, “Troubled veterans left without health-care benefits,” Hal Bernton, Aug. 11, 2012.