Veterans, Benefits and Discharge Status: How Attorneys Can Help the Wrongfully Excluded

Veterans

The BBA would like to highlight a paper authored by Dana Montalto, Staff Attorney & Liman Fellow at the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, a BBF grantee.  The paper, titled Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper, highlights how many of the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces are cut off from veterans’ services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge. They may have served in combat and have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are excluded access to much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status.

We hope you take time to read the paper here, but these are four takeaways:

  • Veterans with bad paper discharges are twice as likely to commit suicide and at a much higher risk of becoming homeless.
  • Veterans are four times as likely to be denied services and benefits today as during World War II. According to the paper, the devastating uptick is due almost entirely to the VA’s own discretionary policies, not any statute.
  • 90% of post-2001 veterans with bad paper discharges haven’t been reviewed for eligibility by the VA, and are categorically turned away from healthcare and housing services.
  • The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps each have its own separation regulations and policies, with significant disparities. Thus, service members who engage in similar misconduct may receive different treatment.

Veterans with a bad-paper discharge must first apply to the VA to receive a Character of Discharge review or to the military review boards for a discharge upgrade, and that’s where lawyers can help.

To find out more about how you can get involved and assist veterans with their COD reviews, please mark your calendars for May 18th from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM for a training session at the BBA designed to help lawyers handle discharge status upgrades.  For more information, and to register, please click here.