Veterans in Florida who received other than honorable discharges from the military might be able to secure veterans’ benefits if the Department of Veteran Affairs moves forward with some proposed changes. The VA published a proposal for changes in how the agency would evaluate bad-paper discharges when determining eligibility for VA benefits in the Federal Register on July 10. The proposal came after a hearing before Congress about the difficulties faced by veterans with other-than-honorable discharges.

The proposed changes

Under the VA’s proposal, the policy about how people with other-than-honorable discharges would be evaluated for benefits eligibility would be changed. The affected benefits would include eligibility for the GI Bill, home loans, and health care benefits. The VA would modify the framework it uses to evaluate bad-paper discharges based on the following circumstances:

  • Homosexual acts with aggravating circumstances
  • Willful and persistent misconduct
  • Offenses involving moral turpitude

The VA would also broaden an exception for compelling circumstances to try to ensure a fair evaluation of the nature of the discharge from military service. People can submit comments about the proposal online, by fax, or by mail.

Problems faced by veterans with bad-paper discharges

The VA reports that around 500,000 veterans have received other than honorable discharges. Most veterans who have these types of discharges are denied veterans’ benefits. Approximately 25% of veterans have other-than-honorable discharges. People with bad-paper discharges are much likelier to experience homelessness, suffer from substance abuse disorders, and to be incarcerated. They are also likelier to commit suicide and face a lack of access to health care and mental health care.

While the proposed changes are promising, some veterans do not believe that they go far enough. They want the VA to focus on helping veterans rather than trying to save money. Veterans who have received other-than-honorable discharges and who want to access veterans’ benefits may want to consult with experienced veterans’ benefits attorneys. The lawyers might review the circumstances surrounding the discharge and advocate for their clients to get the benefits that they need.