Veterans Disability Info Blog

New Rule Offers VA Benefits for Veterans With ‘Bad Paper’

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced a new rule that will significantly impact tens of thousands of veterans previously denied benefits due to less-than-honorable discharges. The new rule takes effect on June 25 and will allow veterans with mental illnesstraumatic brain injury (TBI), or other extenuating circumstances to be considered for full VA benefits.

The rule change marks a significant shift in policy, as veterans who were previously disqualified for benefits due to misconduct will now have the opportunity to access the care and support they need. 

The VA’s new regulation eliminates the bar for certain behaviors, such as “homosexual acts involving aggravating circumstances or other factors affecting the performance of duty,” as a reason to deny benefits.

Furthermore, the new rule creates a “compelling circumstances exception” for certain former service members, acknowledging that unique situations may have contributed to their misconduct. This exception will allow veterans to make a case for why they should be considered for benefits despite their less-than-honorable discharge.

The rule change will also allow previously denied service members to reapply for benefits. This means that veterans who were previously turned away due to their discharge status now have the opportunity to have their cases reconsidered and potentially receive the support they deserve.

VA’s determination of a veteran’s discharge status does not change the Armed Forces’ characterization of their service. Instead, the VA’s decision is solely applied to determining eligibility for benefits and services.

An estimated 125,000 veterans have left the military since 2001 with less than honorable discharges or by special court martial for minor offenses. These veterans are often denied access to VA services and benefits, leading to a myriad of challenges as they transition back to civilian life. The VA has historically been allowed to turn away veterans for minor infractions, regardless of their circumstances.

Veterans Advocates’ Lawsuit Dismissed

On April 16, the National Veterans Legal Service Program and Swords to Plowshares renewed a lawsuit seeking to compel the VA to apply a different standard when considering benefits for veterans with other than honorable discharges.

The lawsuit argued that Congress only authorized the VA to exclude former service members who were discharged through a general court martial with a dishonorable or bad conduct characterization of service. It claimed that veterans with other than honorable discharges, especially those stemming from mental illness or traumatic brain injury, should be considered for benefits.

The lawsuit was dismissed following the adoption of a new rule. 

VA’s New Less Than Honorable Discharge Rule Still Has Problems – Our VA Disability Lawyer Explains

One of the main concerns with the new rule is the burden placed on veterans to undergo lengthy individualized reviews of their discharge circumstances. This can result in delays of years before veterans are awarded access to VA services and health care. The new rule leaves a significant amount of discretion with VA adjudicators in determining benefits, which can make the process even more challenging for veterans trying to access necessary assistance.

Additionally, the rule does not provide a clear path for veterans to access disability assistance, health care, and other VA services. Veterans with mental health issues or other problems still have to prove their eligibility, which can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. 

Many veterans may not even be aware of the rule change that now qualifies them for VA services. Reports indicate that some have been told by local VA offices that they are not aware of any new rules for veterans with less-than-honorable discharges. Some VA offices are reportedly telling veterans to apply for a discharge upgrade.

To address these concerns, the VA needs to ensure that its staff is properly informed about the new rule and its application. Veterans should not be left in the dark about their eligibility for benefits, and the VA must work to streamline the process for accessing necessary services.

Speak to a Skilled VA Disability Lawyer Today

If you are a veteran with a less-than-honorable discharge, you may now qualify for VA benefits. It is critical that you speak with a qualified VA disability lawyer to ensure you collect the benefits you deserve.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.