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NVLSP, Swords to Plowshares VA Secretary Letter on Character of Discharge Regulations

Released 2/10/21 | Tags: Discharge Upgrades, Veteran's Benefits

The National Veterans Legal Services Program and Swords to Plowshares on Feb. 10, 2021 sent a letter to VA Secretary McDonough requesting expanded care to veterans with less than honorable discharges .  The letter was signed by more than 20 attorneys, advocates and law professors. 

The letter notes that "In the 2016 under the Obama-Biden Administration, the VA committed to revise its Character of Discharge (COD) regulations, which govern when veterans with less-than-honorable discharges are eligible for basic VA benefits like health care and disability support. VA agreed to do so based on a petition for rulemaking by Swords to Plowshares and the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), represented by the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and Latham & Watkins, concerning these unjust, unlawful, and outdated regulations that disproportionately exclude veterans of color, veterans with mental health conditions, veterans at risk of suicide, and LGBTQ+ veterans. Four years later, the VA finally issued proposed regulations that, if finalized, will continue to unlawfully bar veterans from the benefits that they have earned and deserve. "

Specifically, the letter requests that in his first 100 days as VA Secretary issue the final COD regulations in better accordance with VA’s governing law and VA’s purpose of serving our nation’s veterans.  The groups also requested a meeting with Secretary McDonough.  Link here to the full letter .   

Below you can also find the Sept. 2020 Comments and the full 2016 report on the Underserved, which covers the legislative history of the 1944 G.I. Bill and its expanded eligibility standard. Notably, the Underserved report explains why Congress chose the “other than dishonorable” eligibility standard so that former service members would be excluded only on the basis of severe misconduct that should have led to Dishonorable discharge. In making the eligibility determination, Congress also wanted mitigating circumstances and positive factors, such as combat service or a service-related mental health condition, to be taken into consideration.


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