Logo American Veteran

Benefits for Other Than Honorable Discharges for Veterans

December 1, 2023

Navigating the complex landscape of veterans' benefits can be particularly challenging for those who have received an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge from the military. This type of discharge, falling under the category of administrative discharges, can significantly impact a veteran’s access to benefits. However, it’s important to understand that having an OTH discharge does not necessarily mean being completely barred from all veteran benefits. Let’s explore what are the benefits for other than honorable discharge veterans and the avenues for potentially upgrading discharge status.

Potential Access to VA Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not automatically grant benefits to veterans with an OTH discharge. However, there is a process known as a "Character of Discharge" review.1 Through this review, the VA determines on a case-by-case basis whether a veteran with an OTH discharge can receive certain benefits. These might include:

VA Health Care

“Veterans with an Other Than Honorable discharge may still access limited VA healthcare benefits, particularly for service-connected issues, after a case-by-case review by the VA.”

Veterans with an OTH discharge may access limited VA healthcare benefits, especially for service-connected health issues. This consideration is particularly significant for those suffering from mental health conditions. The VA evaluates these cases individually to determine the extent of healthcare services that can be offered, which might include:

  • Medical Care: Treatment for service-connected disabilities and specific conditions recognized by the VA.

  • Dental Care: Depending on the review, this can include preventive, restorative care, and surgery.

  • Mental Health Care: Vital services like counseling, therapy, and medication management for veterans struggling with mental health issues.

Disability Compensation

While generally more challenging for veterans with an OTH discharge, there's a possibility of qualifying for disability compensation. This is especially true if the disability is directly connected to their military service. The VA's review process plays a crucial role in determining eligibility for such compensation.

Home Loan Assistance and Guaranty

The VA also examines eligibility for home loan benefits during the Character of Discharge review. If the veteran's service is found to be otherwise honorable, they may gain access to:

  • Home Loan Assistance: This helps veterans in obtaining home loans, often at more favorable terms than those available in the broader market.

  • Home Loan Guaranty: The VA guarantees a portion of the home loan, enabling veterans to secure mortgages with potentially better terms, including lower interest rates and no down payment requirements.

Burial Benefits

Veterans with an OTH discharge might also be eligible for certain burial benefits, contingent upon the outcomes of their discharge review. These benefits can include:

  • Burial Allowance: Financial assistance to cover some of the burial and funeral costs.

  • Plot or Headstone: Provision of a plot in a national cemetery or a headstone, if applicable.

  • Transportation: Assistance with the transportation of the remains in certain circumstances.

Other Potential Benefits

Aside from VA benefits, individuals with an OTH discharge might still be eligible for certain state-level veterans' benefits. These benefits vary by state and can include educational assistance, job training, and other state-specific support services. It's crucial for veterans to check the benefits available in their specific state.

Understanding OTH Discharge

An OTH discharge is generally issued to service members who have violated military laws or failed to meet military standards in conduct or performance. This type of discharge is more severe than an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions but is not as severe as a Bad Conduct discharge or a Dishonorable discharge, typically resulting from a military court conviction.

The Discharge Upgrade Process

“An Other Than Honorable discharge does not automatically exclude veterans from VA benefits; eligibility can be re-evaluated through the Character of Discharge review process.”

Veterans who received an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge have the option to apply for a discharge upgrade, a critical step that could significantly broaden their access to various VA benefits typically available to those with an honorable discharge. 

The process is overseen by either the Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) or the Discharge Review Board (DRB) of the respective service branch.2 Key factors influencing the decision include the veteran's post-service conduct, any mental health conditions, and experiences such as being a victim of sexual harassment or assault during service. 

To initiate this process, veterans need to file a VA Form 21-526, "Application for Discharge Review/Upgrade/Entitlement," and may also be required to provide additional documentation, such as military discharge papers and medical records, to support their case.

Exploring Benefits for Other Than Honorable Discharge

Despite the limitations an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge can impose on accessing certain veterans' benefits, it's crucial to recognize the available options and pathways that can lead to potential benefits restoration. Navigating the Character of the Discharge review process with the VA, delving into state-specific benefits, and actively pursuing a discharge upgrade can serve as vital steps for veterans seeking to regain or secure access to benefits for other than honorable discharge. Each veteran's case is unique, and comprehending these alternatives is fundamental in making well-informed choices to access the support and acknowledgment rightfully earned through their service.

Ready to support a fellow veteran? Learn the essentials of crafting an effective buddy letter for a PTSD claim and play a pivotal role in their journey towards healing and compensation.

Michael Blair contributes his expertise to help veterans access government benefits and resources. Through his informative articles and guides, he plays a vital role in empowering veterans and improving their quality of life.
Logo American Veteran
Americanveteran.org strive to provide accessible information and assistance to help veterans navigate post-service challenges. Explore our collection of helpful guides, articles, and tools to access the benefits and support you deserve.
© 2024 American Veteran. All Rights Reserved.

DMCA.com Protection Status