After a while, fighting in the military can take a toll on your mental health. Some soldiers decide to stay in the military for as long as they are allowed, while others get a few years under their belt and then they are finished. Either path is respectable.However, the type of discharge you receive can have an enormous impact on your life after returning home.
Certain types of discharge will come as a burden and will give you more negative feelings about serving, rather than the proud feelings you should be having. Some veterans miss out on important job opportunities because of a dishonorable discharge.
For example, if you received an honorable discharge from the military, you will have access to all of the veterans benefits available, such as education and health benefits. But if you received a discharge status that falls under the dishonorable or “other than honorable” categories, then you won’t be able to use these benefits. It’ll seem like you never served in the military, and life will be hard. This is partially why so many vets are homeless.
Types of military discharge:
- Honorable discharge
- General discharge under honorable conditions
- Other Than Honorable discharge (OTH)
- Bad conduct discharge
- Dishonorable discharge
- Entry-level separation
- Medical separation
- Separation for convenience of the government
Military Discharge Upgrade
Under certain circumstances, you apply for a military discharge upgrade. To qualify for a military discharge upgrade, you must be able to show that your discharge was connected to one of the following:
- Mental health condition, like PTSD
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Sexual assault or harassment during military service
- Sexual orientation
To upgrade your military discharge, you will need a veterans lawyer to represent you. They will provide you with all of the information you need for an upgrade and help assemble your case. Some military discharge upgrades require you to present a case to a military review board, like if you received an OTH discharge (Other Than Honorable) for a positive urinalysis test or if you found an error on your discharge report. Your case needs to convince this review board to upgrade your discharge status.
Your lawyer should build this case for you and will assemble a memorandum that is presented to the board for consideration. Marks on your military record will play a big part in their verdict, and any prior misconduct will most likely make you unable to upgrade your military discharge.
For a step-by-step guide to your military discharge upgrade, take this questionnaire made by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Click here to get started.
Free Lawyers for Veterans
The VA can help you with free legal assistance. Click here to see a list of VA legal service clinics in your area.
The ABA (American Bar Association) also has a Veterans Legal Services Initiative that can help you find pro bono legal resources. They can also help provide your family with legal support. Click here to see how they can help.
What to Look for in a Veterans Lawyer
No matter what type of veterans lawyer you’re looking for, they need to have:
- Several years of experience representing veterans
- Recently attended veterans law training (within the past year)
Otherwise, you will have littleto no success in attempting to upgrade your discharge status.
NOVA ( the National Organization of Veterans Advocates) has an online directory of attorneys that are accredited by the VA. This should make finding one easy and straightforward. Veterans lawyers aren’t even added the NOVA directory until they have been a member of NOVA for at least a year.
Click here to view the NOVA directory.
How Much Will a Veterans Lawyer Cost You?
The fees charged by a veterans lawyer will be different with each lawyer since attorneys are permitted to set their own fees for discharge upgrades. They can also charge you money before they start working on your case.
Success With Military Discharge Upgrade
Some military discharge upgrade cases go really well, some do not, and others just take time and effort.
The Hartford Courant did an article on a veteran named Stephen Kennedy, from Connecticut. He won an eight-year legal battle over his military discharge and successfully upgraded it to honorable. Before his case ended, he didn’t have access to veterans education benefits but is now able to take advantage of those resources.
After leaving the army, he graduated from the University of Massachusetts, but he lost an estimated amount of $90,000 in education grants because of his less than honorable discharge. After winning his case, he can now try to obtain compensation for these grants under the federal GI bill.This shows you how much your life can improve from a discharge upgrade.
Other Types of Veterans Lawyers
Veterans lawyers can help with more than just discharge upgrades. They can also aid you in obtaining benefits for disabilities that you received while serving in the military as well as help you reduce or eliminate criminal charges.
Veterans Disability Lawyer
If you are having trouble receiving VA disability benefits after filing a claim, a veterans disability lawyer can help you change or get a better result from the VA. It’s not always necessary to hire a lawyer for this process; they’re usually only needed if you were denied for disability or if you’re not pleased with the VA’s response to your claim.
Remember: your veterans disability lawyer is not allowed to ask you for payment for helping you file the initial disability claim; they can only request money for further casework.
Click here to learn how to file a VA disability claim or to track the current status of the one you have already submitted.
Use the NOVA directory link above to find a veterans disability lawyer near you.
Criminal Lawyers for Veterans
Some military criminal cases can be fought if you have a mental illness or if you were wrongfully accused of a crime. Use the NOVA directory to find a VA-accredited lawyer to help you build a defense or to make a plea agreement.