Tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with less-than-honorable discharges, many with physical and mental injuries, were being denied care by the Department of Veterans Affairs, claims a new report by a veterans’ advocacy group.
“The VA created much broader exclusion criteria than Congress provided, failing to give veterans due credit for their service to our country,” said the report by advocacy group Swords to Plowshares, published on Wednesday.
Under the 1944 GI Bill, Congress expanded eligibility for veteran benefits to almost all veterans, even those with less-than-honorable discharges, provided the misconduct was not so severe that it should have led to a trial by court-martial and a dishonorable discharge. Congress left open the door to benefits for spectrum of discharges between honorable and dishonorable, including “undesirable” and “other than honorable.”
The report found the VA labeled 90 percent of veterans with bad paper discharges as “dishonorable,” even though the military classified them differently.
“The VA’s board and vague regulations are contrary to law and create a system that does not work for the VA or for veterans… and stops the agency from effectively addressing the national priorities of ending veteran suicide and homelessness,” said the report.
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