Can You Get Disability With “Other than Honorable” Discharge?

Can You Get Disability With “Other than Honorable” Discharge?

Most US military members leave the service with honorable or general discharges. However, what happens if you receive an other than honorable discharge? In many cases, that can significantly affect your civilian life, your job opportunities, your ability to reenlist in the military, and your military benefits.

So, can you get disability benefits with an other than honorable discharge? Read on for the answer to this question and more.

What Is an Other Than Honorable Discharge?

An other than honorable (OTH) discharge is an undesirable administrative discharge. A Veteran may receive an other than honorable discharge if their conduct results in some type of punishment for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

For example, a Veteran may be found guilty of a security violation. They may be arrested and convicted by civilian authorities. They could also be convicted of assault, drug violations, or abuse of authority. These are all examples of conduct that may warrant an OTH discharge at the end of a Veteran’s service.

If a Veteran receives an OTH discharge on their DD-214, they will not automatically be entitled to Veterans’ benefits, including disability and retirement. Furthermore, they will not be able to reenlist in the military.

An other than honorable discharge is contrasted with a dishonorable discharge. Unlike a dishonorable discharge, an OTH discharge is administrative instead of punitive. As a result, it does not come with the same consequences for a Veteran in civilian life, though it still affects their civilian opportunities to some extent.

Other discharge types include:

  • Honorable discharge. This is the highest and most beneficial type of military discharge. It is given to Veterans who go above and beyond the call of duty. They are entitled to all VA disability benefits
  • General discharge. This is the standard type of military discharge. All Veterans are entitled to military benefits with general discharges. It indicates that the Veterans in question fulfilled their duties adequately
  • Dishonorable discharge. This is a punitive type of discharge only given to servicemembers convicted of serious crimes in the military. Court martials must give this type of discharge. Any Veteran with a dishonorable discharge is ineligible for all Veterans’ benefits, including VA disability benefits

Can You Get Disability Compensation With an OTH Discharge?

Technically, you can receive disability compensation with an OTH discharge. However, this may not immediately seem possible, given that an OTH discharge naturally disqualifies Veterans from qualifying for disability benefits.

In truth, the Department of Veterans Affairs is a separate organization from the US military in many ways. It can decide to whom it awards benefits and under what circumstances. In theory, the VA could decide to give a dishonorably discharged or an other than honorably discharged Veteran disability benefits, though the former never happens in practice.

However, the VA can and does give other than honorably discharged Veterans disability benefits in some circumstances. There are two ways in which you may secure disability compensation with an OTH discharge. In both of these situations, you will benefit from the assistance of Veterans law attorneys.

The VA Benefits Review Process

First, you may apply for disability benefits using the normal process, such as filing a VA Form 21-256. When you file this form, the VA will know your discharge status and will immediately trigger a review of your service record and profile.

If the VA discovers information in your profile that indicates that your other than honorable discharge was unfair or reflects circumstances outside your control, it may reconsider its automatic decision to deny benefits. It is possible to successfully get through the VA review process and receive disability compensation.

This is much easier with knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys on your side. The right attorneys can provide substantiating evidence to support your side of a story and provide supplementary evidence indicating that your other than honorable discharge is not necessarily warranted when leaving the military.

Note that even if the VA decides to award you disability benefits with an other than honorable discharge, it cannot upgrade your discharge status. You will still retain the OTH discharge status for all other Veteran benefits or job opportunities.

The Discharge Status Review Process

Alternatively, you can apply for your discharge status to be upgraded by contacting the Discharge Review Board (DRB).

The DRB is a separate entity that reviews Veterans’ discharge statuses. When you apply for a discharge upgrade, the DRB will examine your service record, look at the details of your application, and decide whether to upgrade your discharge status.

If the DRB decides to upgrade your discharge status, you can apply for the benefits appropriate to your new discharge situation. For instance, if your OTH discharge status is upgraded to general discharge, you will again qualify for disability compensation and other Veterans’ benefits.

However, the DRB cannot force the VA to provide you with disability benefits. No matter what the DRB decides, the decision is with the VA.

When Could You Receive Disability Benefits With an OTH Discharge?

Whether you decide to apply for disability benefits to the VA or apply for a discharge upgrade, the circumstances surrounding your initial discharge will determine whether you are successful.

Generally, both the DRB and the VA only upgrade Veterans’ discharge statuses or decide to award benefits in the following situations:

  • A valid legal defense exists for your absence or AWOL actions. For example, if you suffered severely while in the field or while deployed and suffered a mental break in the process, going AWOL as a result, the DRB and/or VA will consider this as exonerating information in some cases
  • You were insane or mentally unwell at the time of committing an offense for which you received an other than honorable discharge. The VA considers an insane individual to exhibit prolonged deviations from normal methods of behavior due to a disease or mental health condition (e.g., you became sick and feverish to the point of doing something wrong)

In either of these cases, you may find that your discharge status gets upgraded or the VA decides to award you benefits despite maintaining your other than honorable discharge status. However, both methods require you to provide information to sway the DRB or VA to agree with your point of view. 

Why Contact Veterans Law Attorneys?

You should contact Veterans law attorneys whenever you want to upgrade your discharge status or get disability benefits with an other than honorable discharge status.

Experience Veterans law attorneys help your case in many ways, including:

  • They can tell you whether you should apply for an upgrade to your discharge status or apply directly for benefits based on the situational details of your case. In some situations, one path might be better than the other
  • They can provide you with additional help gathering the appropriate evidence for your claim. For example, they can help you get more service records, point you toward medical healthcare providers who can provide medical evidence of your mental state during a criminal conviction, etc. 
  • On the rare occasion it is necessary, your attorneys can represent you in court or to the DRB 

More than anything else, however, Veterans law attorneys can provide you with the support and peace of mind you need to complete this process. Having the VA repeatedly deny your application for benefits can feel stressful and frustrating.

Whether you need to apply for benefits for the first time or want to appeal your denied benefits, the right law firm can make a significant difference.

Contact Berry Law

Typically, you cannot receive disability benefits from the VA with an other than honorable discharge status. However, there are ways to upgrade your discharge status or convince the VA to review your case. If your attempts are successful, you may qualify for disability benefits later.

Berry Law may be able to help. Our experienced attorneys have helped American Veterans like you file successful disability compensation claims. While we do not help Veterans upgrade their discharge statuses, we can help you file an initial claim for benefits or help you through the appeals process if your initial claim was denied.

Contact us today to learn how we can assist you.



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Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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