What happens when a servicemember is discharged from the military with an other than honorable discharge? Does he or she still receive VA care and other benefits?
A recent story on NPR, “Other-Than-Honorable Discharge Burdens Like A Scarlet Letter,” discusses the stories of several servicemembers struggling to find healthcare after receiving a less-than-honorable discharge from the military.
[One of the servicemembers interviewed] and more than 100,000 other troops left the armed services with “bad paper” over the past decade of war. Many went to war, saw combat, even earned medals before they broke the rules of military discipline or in some cases committed serious crimes. The bad discharge means no VA assistance, no disability compensation, no GI Bill, and it’s a red flag on any job application. Most veterans service organizations don’t welcome bad paper vets, and even many private sector jobs programs for vets accept honorable discharge only.
Some of the “other-than-honorable” discharges in recent years stem from problems and symptoms associated with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):
For some veterans with bad paper, it’s worse than if they never served, says Phil Carter, an Iraq vet now at the Center for a New American Security.
“The nation’s long had a social contract with its troops that says we will send you to war, and when you come home we will care for you,” Carter says. “There’s been this gap; this population that’s gone to war and earned the benefits of that social contract, but for whatever reason had these benefits taken away.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs “can do its own independent evaluation of a veteran’s character of service before rejecting or accepting a vet with a bad discharge”.
The NPR story ended with this: “Is basic care to those who have borne the battle, is that something you earn with an honorable discharge or is it a promise made the moment a man or woman volunteers to go fight the country’s wars?”
For more information on veterans health issues and VA claims, visit the MOAA Claims Assistance Blog. It contains current insights into the workings of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as information to help you get your claims processed as efficiently as possible.
Image above designed to raise awareness about stress-related causes of suicide amongst U.S. Service members, created in Rapid City, S.D., Dec. 21, 2009. Shared via Flickr user MilitaryHealth. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Airman 1st Class Corey Hook/Released)