Veterans with other than honorable (OTH) discharges – also known as “bad paper” discharges – do not qualify for VA benefits and services. However, it is clear that many OTH discharges can be attributed to undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury symptoms. Congress instructed the Department of Defense (DoD) to create a process through which these discharges can be appealed and, possibly, reversed.
Through a joint initiative, DoD and VA launched an online tool (www.vets.gov/discharge-upgrade-instructions) to help veterans with the discharge recharacterization process.
The site will ask veterans a few questions. By answering them, the veteran will know which board they need to go to, what form to fill out, any special guidance applicable to their case, where to send their application, and helpful tips for appealing their discharge.
President signs bill easing CDL rules for active-duty troops, reservists
On Jan. 8, President Trump signed into law Public Law 115-105, the Jobs for Our Heroes Act, which clarifies eligibility rules for active-duty servicemembers and reservists applying for commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) under U.S. Department of Transportation programs.
Previously, lawmakers had created a special program for veterans seeking CDLs, which allowed them to skip driving tests and some certification requirements if they had previous applicable experience from their time in the military. But those provisions did not include reservists who have not yet separated from the military or active-duty troops planning ahead for their post-service careers. Transportation officials created a two-year exemption to cover those groups, but the new legislation makes those changes permanent.
In addition, the new law also allows more VA medical professionals to perform required federal health examinations for the licensing processes. Because of current rules, only a small number of VA staffers meet the requirements for administering those tests.
President issues executive order addressing veteran suicide
On Jan. 9, Trump signed an executive order that instructed the DoD, VA and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a joint plan addressing veterans suicide, especially in the first year after leaving military service. The departments have 60 days to develop a plan and must report on its implementation and effectiveness within 180 days of the signing date.
The order specifies that the plan should work to streamline access to mental health services throughout an individual’s transition to civilian life and across the DoD and VA. The inclusion of the DHS means that the Coast Guard will be covered by these actions.