Statutory Bars to VA benefits

The type of discharge a veteran receives will determine whether the VA will consider a person a veteran. A person desiring veteran status must have been discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. The language that the VA uses to describe the character of a veterans service does not correspond precisely with the language used by the military. The military has its own language that it uses to describe the circumstances under which a person was discharged.

The military issues essentially five types of discharges:

  • Honorable discharge (HD);
  • Discharge under honorable conditions (UHC), or general discharge (GD);
  • Discharge under other than honorable conditions (OTH), or undesirable discharge (UD);
  • Bad conduct discharge (BCD) (which can be issued by sentence of either a special court-martial or a general court-martial); and
  • Dishonorable discharge (DD) or a dismissal, the latter in the case of an officer (both are issued only by a general court-martial).

Individuals with dishonorable discharges generally cannot get benefits. Individuals with discharges under other than honorable conditions, undesirable discharges and bad conduct discharges may or may not be eligible for VA benefits. Individuals with honorable discharges, discharges under honorable conditions, and general discharges usually do qualify for benefits. For those discharges that are questionable, the VA will first adjudicate the issue of the character of service to decide whether the veteran was separated from service under dishonorable conditions or other than dishonorable conditions. The VA reviews the entire period of service to evaluate the quality of service and judge if it was good enough to merit receipt of veterans benefits. Initial decisions are rendered at the VA regional office having jurisdiction over the claim. Adverse decisions can be appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals and subsequently to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. To learn more about character of discharge talk to the Vet Defender. You can talk with the Vet Defender by clicking this link and scheduling an appointment: Schedule an Appointment.