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Friday, Jan 13, 2017
How a Military Discharge Upgrade Can Improve VA Benefits
Posted by Donald Gordon of

Veteran Grandpa

Not everyone leaves the United States military with a glowing record. It can be easy for veterans to find that they have no qualified retirement or wellness benefits, as a result of being discharged from service in less than honorable situations.

In this article, we'll discuss the different types of military discharges that can be earned by personnel, and the impact that discharges have on wellness benefits and future employment opportunities (within or outside of the military). We'll also share why a discharge upgrade is an important, worthwhile step to try to recoup lost benefits.

Circumstances Where Dishonorable Discharge Occurs

There are circumstances where military personnel are permitted to leave active service and return to civilian life if they have earned a dishonorable discharge. There are seven distinct types of discharges from the U.S. military that may have a significant impact on the type of health, medical, retirement, and other veteran benefits that the service person receives.

1. Honorable Discharge

When the serviceman or woman has earned a good to excellent rating for their time within the military, in terms of performance and personal conduct. An honorable discharge is an administrative discharge from the military, and is valuable to military members in terms of a professional and personal reference to future employers.

2. General Discharge

This type of discharge is reserved for people who exhibited normal or satisfactory performance, but did not meet the disciplinary or moral conduct requirements of the military. The discharge is done in writing, and military personnel who are relieved through General Discharge are required to sign the document, to agree with the reasons behind the general discharge. Veteran benefits may not be received for individuals who are relieved through conditions of General Discharge.

3. Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge

The second most serious and negative release from military service is under the "Other Than Honorable Conditions" discharge. What this means is that some military officer or personnel was guilty of security violations, violence, or another conviction of dishonor, which can even include adultery. Veterans benefits are not available to military staff who are discharged under this category, and they are not permitted to re-enlist with the U.S. Armed Forces.

4. Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)

This type of discharge is awarded to military personnel who were summoned to court martial for punishment and sentencing, due to bad conduct. This charge usually comes with a military prison sentence, and all military benefits are forfeited.

5. Officer Discharge

Officers in the United States Armed Forces have certain protections, given the responsibility of their roles and decisions. An officer may be released through court martial and a dismissal notice, which bears the same weight as a dishonorable discharge.

6. Entry Level Separation (ELS)

Not everyone has what it takes to be an active member of the American military. Entry Level Separation discharges (ELS) are for individuals who leave the military and quit before serving a minimum of 180 days of active service. The ELS leave is also in place for individuals who have health issues, and it is a neutral type of dismissal that has neither good nor bad consequences for the service person.

7. Dishonorable Discharge

The highest and most offensive crimes committed by military personnel result in an order of Dishonorable Discharge from the court martial. Violent crimes, sexual assault, murder, collusion with foreign military powers, and other crimes qualify a person for dishonorable discharge. Consequently, personnel charged forfeit all rights to benefits as veterans, and the discharge is a matter of public record, which can greatly reduce civilian occupation opportunities.

One event that crosses the line between legal and illegal, according the military, is all that it takes to negate benefits and entitlements that have been earned through years of service. That's why many veterans are seeking to upgrade their military record.

Do You Have Grounds to Request a Discharge Upgrade?

To apply for a discharge upgrade, a military veteran must apply within 15 years of their discharge. After the 15-year window, you can still petition and apply for an upgrade, but the process requires written documentation. The request is seen before a Military Discharge Review Board, who is responsible for making decisions and upgrading the discharge on a case by case basis, and the burden is on the military veteran to prove that the discharge was factually incorrect.

Each branch of the U.S. military has a different review board agency. For general members of the Army, the review board petition can be started online. For the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, petitions must be made in writing.

If approved, discharge review boards can upgrade discharges that are less than desirable to a more neutral discharge, which would reinstate health and legal benefits for veterans. Other health conditions that were unknown at the time of court martial may provide enough evidence to petition for a medical discharge, which is not dishonorable.

When you consider that VA benefits can include low interest financing, medical healthcare coverage (rebated), and improved career opportunities, it is worth the time and money to pursue a military discharge upgrade.

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