Except for certain health care benefits, eligibility for VA benefits in general requires that the claimant or person on whose service the claim is based have been discharged FROM service under honorable conditions. With certain exceptions, an honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions is binding upon VA for all benefits purposes. If the discharge was less than honorable, VA will determine if the discharge was under other than dishonorable conditions so long as it was not issued for any of the reasons constituting a statutory bar to benefits, such as a discharge or dismissal by reason of sentence of a general court-martial, or a resignation of an officer for the good of theservice, ect.
If VA determines that the discharge was issued under other than dishonorable conditions, the claimant is eligible to proceed with his or her claim for benefits. Otherwise, the claim(s) must be denied.Persons whose discharge FROM service was under other than honorable conditions may instead choose to apply for a review of the discharge by the Service Department.This may be either by a Discharge Review Board or by a Board for Correction of Military Records. Each is briefly described below.
I. Discharge Review Boards Each of the Armed Forces has established a Discharge Review Board to review upon application the nature and type of discharge issued in a particular case. The Board is empowered to determine whether the discharge or dismissal in an individual case should be changed, corrected or modified under reasonable standards of regulations and discipline for that branch of service. The Board does not have the authority to reinstate the applicant to service, nor can the Board change reenlistment codes to permit the applicant to return to service. In addition, if the other than honorable discharge was based on HAVING been AWOL for more than 180 days, a recharacterized discharge by the Discharge Review Board is not necessarily binding upon VA; in such cases, VA must still determine whether there were compelling reasons for the person''s absence FROM duty. An applicant must specify what change, recharacterization is required, and why it is necessary. Supporting documentation, including statements FROM witnesses, may be submitted either with the application or at any time up to the time the Board meets to consider the application.The application must be filed no later than 15 years after the discharge or dismissal FROM service; this time LIMIT may not be waived. If more than 15 years have elapsed since discharge or dismissal, the applicant must file with the appropriate Board for Correction of Military Records, as described below.Discharge Review Boards conduct hearings for applicants to personally plead their cases and provide additional evidence, if desired. All of the Boards hold hearings in Washington, D.C. in addition; the Army and the Air Force have traveling review boards, which conduct personal hearings in various cities in each state. The Navy and Marine Corps Boards conduct personal hearings outside Washington, D.C. only in Arlington, Virginia; Dallas, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; and San Francisco, California. Travel is at the veterans own cost.
II. Boards for the Correction of Military Records Correction of a military record may include review of a discharge that was directed by a court-martial. A recharacterization of a discharge by a Board for Correction of Military Records as "honorable" or "generalunder honorable conditions" is final and binding on VA for all veterans'' benefits purposes. All supporting documentation, including statements FROM witnesses, briefs of arguments, or any other evidence, must accompany an application as a complete package. The Board will not accept any additional evidence filed subsequently, except under the most extraordinary circumstances. The application may be filed by the veteran or former service member, his or her survivors, or a legal representative. The time LIMIT for filing is three years after the discovery of the alleged error or injustice; however, this time LIMIT may be waived or excused if the Board finds that it would be in the interests of justice to do so. It is the applicant''s responsibility to EXPLAIN why the application should be considered despite the delay, and to SHOW why the alleged entry in, or omission from, the record was erroneous or unjust.Boards for Correction of Military Records do not normally hold personal hearings for the applicants. The Board will review the evidence and documentation submitted and will determine if a hearing would be necessary or appropriate, and if so, notify the applicant accordingly. All hearings before Boards for Correction of Military Records are conducted in Washington, D.C.