Lunch & Learn: Discharge Upgrade | Bob Woodruff Foundation

Lunch & Learn: Discharge Upgrade

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In partnership with Harvard’s Legal Services Center, we brought together national experts to discuss how procedural processes to administratively discharge service members for misconduct

  • have historically failed to recognize service-connected conditions,
  • are used inconsistently across DoD, and
  • contribute to significant crisis within the veteran serving community.

According to a GAO study, one in five service members discharged between 2011-2015 with an other-than-honorable (OTH) designation were revealed to have a service-connected traumatic brain injury and/or PTSD. This placed these veterans at higher risk for an adverse transition because of service-connected behavioral and mental health challenges.

Service members discharged from the military under conditions that are OTH lose access to certain benefits. These service members are also more likely to be incarcerated, experience homelessness, be diagnosed with substance use disorder, and die by suicide. The VA’s Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups survey consistently reports that access to discharge upgrade support is a significant unmet need of veterans experiencing homelessness.

In response, in 2018, we funded the creation of the updated Discharge Upgrade Practice Manual. Experts across the US worked with our grantees at Harvard’s Legal Services Corporation, Connecticut Veteran Legal Center and Swords to Plowshares. They created a comprehensive guide for attorneys and veteran service officers who work in this complicated area. The Manual is a resource for advocates supporting veterans through the discharge upgrade process in Department of Defense and character of service determination process in the VA.

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