There are a multitude of factors that determine whether or not a former servicemember will qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and services, and be deemed a “veteran” by the VA the under Title 38 of the U.S. Code. Having enough time in service and having an other-than-dishonorable discharge are two of the biggest hurdles. However, “other-than-dishonorable” is only the threshold and does not mean what it sounds like. One might think if you don’t have a dishonorable discharge you could enroll in the VA, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are statutory and regulatory bars and there are exceptions for all of them. Putting aside disability benefits, just getting in the door at the VA can be very complicated.
In this session, Coco Culhane, executive director of the Veteran Advocacy Project, will review the main elements of VA health care eligibility and examine each of the statutory and regulatory bars to accessing the VA. She will lay out the basics for any lawyer to advocate for their client to receive an honorable character of discharge (COD) determination from the VA, and will cover one of the most important exceptions to these bars: VA’s definition of “insanity.” Finally, she will identify other ways veterans can access the VA health care system, with a focus on mental health treatment.
Identify ways that veterans with less than honorable discharges can still get limited health care at the VA
Coco Culhane is the Executive Director of the Veteran Advocacy Project. She is an adjunct professor of clinical law at Brooklyn Law School, where she teaches the Veterans' Rights Clinic. Culhane sits on Senator Gillibrand's Service Academy Selection Committee, a panel that makes recommendations for the senator's academy nominations, and she is also a founding advisor to the NYC Veterans Alliance. From 2011-2013 she was an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by the CIGNA Foundation and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. She was formerly on the Steering Committee of the Veterans' Mental Health Coalition and chaired the Communications Committee in New York City for two years. She has presented on veterans' legal issues and conducted trainings for attorneys, social workers, and students at conferences across the country. Culhane received a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, where she was the symposium editor of the Brooklyn Law Review and president of the student health law association. Prior to law school she was an editor at The New Republic for six years. She received a B.A. in English from Wesleyan University.