I Have “Bad Papers,” Can I Still Receive VA Disability Benefits?

WWII Veteran in WWII plane

Eligibility for the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) disability is dependent upon your discharge category. To receive disability benefits, you must be “discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.” To learn more about discharge codes and their effect on receiving benefits, read our blog post here.

Armed service members who were discharged honorably or generally with honorable conditions are not likely to be barred from VA disability benefits based on their discharge category. On the other end of the spectrum, dishonorable discharge bars the administration of VA disability benefits, unless an insanity defense is successful.

However, certain discharge categories are analyzed by the VA on a case by case basis to determine if the individual is eligible for disability benefits. For armed service members who were discharged with other than honorable (OTH) discharge or bad conduct discharge (specifically issued by a special-court martial), there is hope you may still be eligible.

If you were discharged with OTH or bad conduct (specifically issued by a special-court martial), the VA analyzes your character of discharge through a character of service determination.

What is a Character of Service Review?
A character of service review, also known as a character of discharge review, is a review by the VA of your application, if your discharge is neither honorable nor dishonorable without further review.

You do not need to specifically apply for a character of service review. If you apply for disability benefits, the VA will automatically begin a review if you have been discharged with OTH or bad conduct.

The VA obtains a copy of your personnel records and typically records that are related to your discharge, such as discharge certificates. However, the VA doesn’t usually have access to lengthy explanations, such as explaining a period of absence or leave. For this, you may submit additional information to help your case, such as documentation of mental health assessments and treatment, court-marital records, statements from friends and family, and character support.

After review, the VA may determine that you are “honorable” for the requirement of granting VA disability. However, you should note that this does not change your discharge category overall.

Are There Any Bars That Cannot Be Overcome By a Character of Service Review?
Yes, the following statutory and regulatory bars cannot be overcome by a character of service review:

  • Conscientious objector;
  • Sentencing of a general court-martial;
  • Certain desertion cases;
  • Mutiny;
  • Spying;
  • Offenses of moral turpitude;
  • Accepting an undesirable discharge to escape trial by general court-martial; and
  • Willful and persistent misconduct.

If I Don’t Like the Result of My Character of Service Review, What Can I Do?
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your character of service review, you may appeal the results.

If you need assistance with your character of service review or filing for disability, please contact us today at (855) 312-5575.