What are the VA Benefits for Medical Discharge
Simply put, a discharge from the military is a service member’s release from the obligation to serve. Once discharged, a “characterization of service” appears on the service member’s Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214 form). The discharged is generally characterized as honorable, dishonorable, general under honorable conditions, other than honorable, or bad-conduct. So what are the VA benefits for medical discharge?
Many assume that any discharge status less than honorable will automatically disqualify the service member from VA benefits like healthcare, educational assistance, disability compensation, and more. This is not necessarily true, as the VA does make exceptions, and access to benefits can be determined on a case-by-case basis.
What is a Medical Discharge?
You may receive a medical discharge if you are sick or injured to the point that military duty is not possible anymore. This discharge is based on a medical evaluation of your condition, and it can be a lengthy process.
The most common reason for medical discharge is physical injuries. However, you may also receive a medical discharge over mental health concerns like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
You can apply for VA compensation for medical issues that are service-connected. When a condition results in a medical discharge from the armed forces, it is even easier to connect the condition to service through strong evidence and documentation.
When is a medical discharge considered honorable?
Typically, a medical discharge is considered a “general discharge under honorable conditions.” The severity of the condition and the circumstances under which it began can impact the characterization of the discharge. If you receive a “general” type of discharge, you can still be eligible for most entitlements given to veterans.
A Medical Review Board will determine whether you should be separated from the military, the type of discharge that is warranted, and other appropriate courses of action. It is important to note that medical discharges are not viewed as negative and shouldn’t interfere with your eligibility for benefits.
Can you file a claim BEFORE a military medical discharge?
If you believe your active military service caused or made your illness or injury worse, a Pre-Discharge Claim for disability benefits can be filed 180 to 90 days before your discharge from the military. The sooner this type of claim is filed, the sooner you can receive benefits.
How do you file a claim AFTER a military medical discharge?
If you develop a medical condition (including PTSD or depression) after you have left the military, you can still file for disability benefits and compensation, especially if you believe the condition is service-related.
Following these steps before filing a medical discharge claim can go a long way towards getting you the compensation and benefits you deserve:
- Visit the doctor to document your illness or injuries.
- Get copies of the records of your service treatment.
- Write a strong personal statement in support of your claim.
- Obtain a buddy letter to help prove the service-connection of your disability.
- Ask your doctor for a Medical Nexus letter to support your claim of a service-connection.
What VA benefits for medical discharge are you entitled to?
Some VA benefits and entitlements do require a certain discharge characterization. You are entitled to nearly all VA benefits, like retirement, education, home loan, and insurance benefits, if you receive a medical discharge under honorable conditions (including a general discharge).
If you were injured while in active military service or a pre-existing condition was worsened through your service, you may also qualify for VA disability compensation.
Can a discharge be upgraded?
If you receive an “other than honorable” discharge and you experienced any of the following, you could be considered for an upgraded discharge:
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Sexual Orientation (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell)
- Sexual Assault or Harassment (Military Sexual Trauma)
- Mental Health Conditions (like PTSD or depression)
An upgraded discharge means you will be eligible for the VA disability benefits you have earned through your military service.