The Paper Trail

January 10, 2020

It is important for providers who serve veterans to understand the various forms of paperwork that are needed when applying for the multiple state and federal benefits to which they are entitled. . These include DD-214 discharge papers, all military medical records (health and dental), and all military service records (in-service personnel records).

Military Discharges

People who have been in the military are entitled to a range of benefits. Depending on their category of discharge from the military, they may have access to retirement, disability, healthcare, and education benefits. In addition, the type of military discharge a veteran receives when they exit the armed forces can influence their eligibility to receive VA healthcare.

Honorable Discharge

  • Most veterans receive an honorable discharge.
  • This discharge means the veteran met or exceeded the conduct and performance standards of the military.
  • They are eligible for all VA benefits(Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill education benefits require honorable discharge).

General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions

  • This is the second-best type of discharge.
  • This discharge means performance was satisfactory.
  • They are eligible for most VA benefits(excluding GI Bill educational benefits).

Other Than Honorable Discharge

  • This indicates the veteran may have had some serious departures from the expected performance during service, including the following:
    - Security violations,
    - Serious misconduct, endangering other service members
    - Use of deliberate force to hurt another
  • The VA determines whether the veteran is eligible for benefits.

Bad Conduct Discharge

  • This is a punitive discharge, imposed by a court martial (criminal trial conducted by the military).
  • The VA determines whether the veteran is eligible for benefits.
  • In some cases, a veteran may lose entitlement to VA benefits – “bad paper.”

Dishonorable Discharge

  • This is the worst type of discharge ¾ reserved for those who committed and were convicted of the equivalent of a felony.
  • A dishonorable discharge is the least common.
  • No VA benefits are available to individuals with a dishonorable discharge.

It is possible for the veteran to apply to upgrade a military discharge or change the reasoning for their discharge, which may improve access to VA healthcare benefits, if approved. See our[self-help guides; titles are changing] for more information on how to upgrade a discharge.