On Demand

Advocating for Honorable Character of Discharge Determinations to Access VA Health Care

1h 3m

Created on November 12, 2020





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.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand the basic eligibility requirements for VA enrollment
  2. Review and analyze the statutory and regulatory bars to VA health care
  3. Learn how to advocate for veterans who need character of discharge determinations made by the VA, including using the VA's definition of "insanity"
  4. Identify ways that veterans with less than honorable discharges can still get limited health care at the VA

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