The military has many different ways of classifying discharges depending on the circumstances surrounding a veteran’s departure from military service. The type of discharge a veteran receives can impact his or her eligibility for a variety of state and federal benefits. In order to be eligible for most benefits a veteran must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions. There are some differences in the terminology used by state or federal agencies and the military branches themselves when referring to types of discharges.
The following discharges are generally considered to be “under other than dishonorable conditions”:
- Honorable discharge;
- Discharge under honorable conditions; and
- General discharge.
Under 38 C.F.R. § 3.12, some discharges require the VA to make a “character of service determination” on an individual basis to determine if the type of discharge disqualifies a veteran from receiving VA benefits.
Those discharges include:
- Discharge under other than honorable conditions;
- Undesirable discharge;
- Bad conduct discharge; and
- Dishonorable discharge.
Most veterans who are released from service as a result of a court-martial conviction or resigning to avoid a court martial are ineligible for VA benefits. Servicemembers who are guilty of desertion, treason, or are unjustifiably absent without leave for an extended period of time may also be ineligible.
The character of a veteran’s discharge is listed on his or her discharge papers (separation papers or Form DD-214). For more information about how to obtain a copy of your own or a family member’s DD-214, visit the Military and VA Records section of this guide. If you believe your discharge is listed incorrectly or was characterized inappropriately, you have the right to request that it be reviewed and changed. Each of the military services maintains a discharge review board with authority to change, correct or modify discharges or dismissals that are not issued by a sentence of a General Courts-Martial. The board has no authority to address medical discharges.
If you want the military to review or change the type of discharge you received, and you were discharged within the past 15 years, complete and submit DD Form 293: Application for Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces of the United States. If your discharge was more than 15 years ago, complete and submit DD Form 149: Application for Correction of Military Records. Instructions and contact information for the review boards of all branches of service are included on both forms.
The Army Review Boards Agency (ARBA) now accepts online applications for the Board for Correction of Military Records and for the Discharge Review Board. This online application process (http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/online-application.cfm) will expedite applicants’ requests for changes to their military records. Customers can check the status of their requests using the Internet. Visit the ARBA website at: http://arba.army.pentagon.mil/. Your local Veteran’s Agent can help you fill out these forms.