On Demand

Accessing the VA: Discharge Upgrades and VA Character of Discharge Determinations

1h 1m

Created on November 13, 2018




There is a common misperception that all veterans are taken care of by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for life. The truth is that access to VA services can be a complicated and lengthy process; and for veterans who have unjustly received less than honorable discharges, legal advocacy is often required.

There are six military discharge statuses that determine what benefits and health care a veteran is entitled to receive. Far too many veterans get less than honorable discharges because of acts of misconduct that are actually symptoms of invisible wounds: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury. These discharges, known as "bad paper," then prevent veterans from accessing the VA and healing. Plainly put, these veterans have been cut off from care because of the very conditions they need treated. The effects are devastating. Studies reveal that the suicide rate for veterans with involuntary discharges is nearly three times that of other veterans. A bad discharge is the second highest predictor of homelessness among veterans.

This course, presented by Coco Culhane of the Veteran Advocacy Project, will provide an overview of basic VA eligibility issues and two avenues of advocacy to assist veterans with "bad paper" due to invisible wounds. It will also discuss recent reforms within the Department of Defense and the VA that have opened the door to relief for veterans with less than honorable discharges due to mental health issues.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify the basic elements of VA eligibility and analyze the effect of six military discharge characterizations on access to VA services and other areas of civilian life
  2. Discuss the VA Character of Discharge (COD) determination process
  3. Review key elements of discharge upgrade applications to the Department of Defense review boards

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