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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

How to Get VA Benefits With Other Than Honorable Discharges

Depending on the type of military discharge, a veteran may be disqualified from benefits. Fortunately, the VA can sometimes grant veterans with lousy papers a favorable character of service determination.

This doesn’t change what’s written on your DD-214 but can help you access VA healthcare and disability compensation. The first step is to ask for a character of discharge review.

Ask for a Character of Discharge Review

While most veterans aren’t automatically eligible for benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs sometimes reviews discharges to determine if they were “under conditions other than dishonorable.” You can ask for this process when you apply for certain VA benefits, such as disability compensation or treatment for sexual assault or harassment at a VA medical center.

To determine this, the VA looks at your military records and other information such as awards, length of service, mitigating factors like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Military Sexual Trauma, and other evidence. It’s often best to submit this information while requesting a Character of Discharge Review. This can help prevent delays while you wait for a decision from the Regional Office or the Board of Corrections for Military Records.


Submit Military Personnel Records

You must submit a comprehensive evidence package to upgrade your discharge or get a favorable Character of Service determination. This includes military records as well as positive post-service history. It can be helpful to work with a veteran’s service organization or an attorney to ensure you have all the evidence you need.

The NPRC will review your record to make a character of service determination when you file for benefits. This could include filing for medical treatment at a VA Medical Center or requesting compensation or pension from a local, regional VA office. If you have a disability, a successful discharge characterization is the first hurdle you must clear. You must also prove that you have a service-connected disability.

Ask for a VA Medical Center Review

Many veterans with bad papers must know they may be eligible for VA health care and other benefits. So, can you get VA benefits with other than honorable discharge? Recent outreach campaigns by the Department of Veterans Affairs aim to ensure people with OTH discharges know they might be eligible for healthcare and other benefits if their disability was caused or made worse by military service.

To get VA benefits, you have to prove that your disability was either caused or aggravated by your service in the military. A Character of Discharge review will help determine if you meet this criterion.


A VA medical center review can also determine your eligibility for benefits. This process can take a long time, but it is worth it. It might even prevent you from waiting for a discharge upgrade decision from the Board of Correction for Military Records or a Discharge Review Board.

Ask for a General Court-Martial Review

When a veteran is applying for benefits and has an Other Than Honorable discharge, the first step is requesting the VA review the case. If the service department agrees, they will send all relevant military personnel records and proceedings to a regional office. They will also ask for any third-party evidence and statements to be submitted.

This is called a Character of Service Determination. It’s the process in which they look at all of the circumstances of your discharge and decide whether you’re eligible for benefits like disability compensation or health care. This doesn’t change your discharge type or anything on your DD-214, but it does affect how the VA treats you and your eligibility for benefits.


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