How does my military discharge status affect my VA benefits?

While the VA provides health care benefits and service-connected disability compensation to veterans, eligibility for these services will depend on the type of discharge a veteran received when he or she left military service.

Here are a few ways a veteran’s discharge status will affect his or her VA benefits:

  • Honorable Discharge, Medical Discharge, General Discharge, or General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions. Any of these statuses entitles a veteran to both disability compensation and VA health care.
  • Dishonorable Discharge or Bad Conduct issued by a General Court Martial. Veterans with either of these discharge statuses are ineligible for both VA disability and health care benefits.
  • Other Than Honorable Discharge, Undesirable Discharge, Bad Conduct Discharge by Special Court Martial. If you have one of these statuses, you must ask the VA to examine your service record to decide if you are entitled to benefits. If the VA finds that the character of your service is mostly honorable, you will be qualified to receive disability compensation and VA health care benefits.
  • Special circumstances. Some circumstances other than discharges can affect VA benefit eligibility. For instance, you may be denied benefits if your injury occurred while you were AWOL, if you were disabled due to your own misconduct, or your disability began while you were being held for court-martial or under felony incarceration.

In some cases, a veteran may apply to change the nature of his or her discharge in order to become eligible for benefits. If a status change is granted, a veteran may be able to receive for VA disability benefits, health care benefits, or both.

What If My Discharge Upgrade Request Is Denied?

If your application for a discharge upgrade is denied, it may be necessary to appear at a hearing to have the change in your status approved. Call the disability attorneys at Cuddigan Law to learn whether we can help you with your discharge upgrade proceedings.Contact us today to learn more or order our free booklet, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims.


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