When you begin the VA claim process with the purpose of proving your eligibility for veterans benefits, you'll first need to establish that your service meets the VA's requirements of being active duty in a branch of the military or other military capacity. Once you've successfully met these two requirements, you'll have to pass a final criterion: determining the character of your discharge.
The VA states that anyone establishing veteran status for the purpose of receiving benefits must have been discharged "under conditions other than dishonorable." This might seem simple at first – but unfortunately, the VA's discharge categories do not match up with the military's discharge categories.
If you're at all unsure as to whether the circumstances of your release qualify you, consult a disability lawyer as soon as possible.
How Is the Character of a Discharge Determined for a VA Claim?
The military's discharge classifications are as follows:
- 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)
- Dishonorable discharge (DD) or dismissal
Since the VA's language specifies that to be considered a veteran eligible for benefits, the discharge much be "other than dishonorable," people with the first three types of discharges (HD, UHC, or GD) almost always qualify. People with dishonorable discharges almost never qualify.
But if your discharge falls between these categories, what are you supposed to do? Filing a VA claim is complicated enough without this added wrench in the works. It is strongly recommended that you hire an experienced disability lawyer, as the circumstances under which each of these ambiguous discharges can still make a veteran eligible for benefits are intricate and very tricky.
Many veterans end up applying to upgrade their discharge statuses before opening a case to determine benefit eligibility, but this involves yet another lengthy and complicated VA claim process, so enlisting the help of a disability lawyer can be crucial if your discharge make your status less than clear-cut.
If you feel that you need help navigating the complexities of the veterans claims process, seek the guidance of an experienced disability attorney who can help you put together a successful case. If you need help with your claim, contact Marc Whitehead, an experienced Texas disability Attorney handling cases for veterans nationwide.