After a Bad Conduct Discharge, You May Still Be Eligible for VA Benefits

Veterans who received an Other Than Honorable Discharge, an Undesirable Discharge, or a Bad Conduct Discharge issued by Special Court-Martial may still be able to receive benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans may apply for a "character of service" determination, asking the VA to consider all the facts surrounding their service to determine if they qualify for disability compensation and VA health care.

The VA may award benefits after bad conduct for veterans who request:

  • Do you need to appeal for a honorable discharge?Service-related health coverage. Veterans with Other than Honorable and Undesirable Discharges who are denied VA health care coverage may still be eligible for VA health care for service-connected conditions. In addition, VA medical services are available for any medical conditions that were aggravated by your term of military service.
  • Coverage for separate periods of service. If you served for two or more periods of service, you will remain eligible for health care and disability for any period that ended in an Honorable Discharge. If your first period of service ended in an Honorable Discharge, but a week later you reenlisted and were eventually given an Undesirable Discharge, you are entitled to health care and disability benefits for any conditions that occurred during your first term of service. To get benefits for your second term of service, you will have to request a discharge upgrade through the Discharge Review Board (DRB).
  • Reenlistment. If the periods of your terms of service “overlapped” due to reenlistment, you may still be entitled to benefit coverage for any term of service that was characterized by honorable conduct. For example, if you were issued a conditional discharge allowing you to reenlist before a period of your service ended, you will be eligible for compensation and health care for the honorable period of service before your reenlistment.

We Can Help You Appeal for a Discharge Upgrade

The DRB has the authority to upgrade an Other Than Honorable discharge to a General or an Honorable Discharge, and the board can change a Bad Conduct Discharge issued after a Special Court-Martial to an Honorable, General, or Other than Honorable Discharge. However, The DRB cannot upgrade a discharge issued from a General Court-Martial.

If you received “bad paper” through a General Court-Martial, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law may be able to help change the status of your discharge to get you VA disability benefits. Order our free book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims, or call us today to ask us a question about your disability case.


Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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