'Bad paper' military discharges: The challenges of an other-than-honorable exit from service

Leaving Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers board a U.S. military aircraft as they leave Afghanistan, at the U.S. base in Bagram, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, July 14, 2011.
Musadeq Sadeq/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Veterans with "other than honorable" discharges lose benefits like the GI Bill for school or a VA home loan. But they also can't get VA health care and disability compensation, even for the PTSD that may have caused the bad discharge. Such veterans have a few avenues of appeal, but none is simple, as this NPR series makes clear.

Dec. 8: Help is hard to get for veterans after a bad discharge More than 100,000 troops left the service with other-than-honorable discharges in the last 10 years. The consequences of a bad discharge can last a lifetime, disqualifying veterans from benefits and health care. Host Rachel Martin speaks with NPR's Quil Lawrence about his series on these former members of the military.

Dec. 9: Other-than-honorable discharge burdens like a scarlet letter Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good-conduct medal, and that he's a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle. None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads "Discharged: under other than honorable conditions."

Dec. 11: 'Path to reclaiming identity steep for vets with 'bad paper' When Michael Hartnett was getting kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was too deep into post-traumatic stress disorder, drugs and alcohol to care as his battalion commander explained to the young man that his career was ending, and ending badly. "Do you understand what I'm saying to you, son? It's going to be six and a kick," Hartnett recalls the commander telling him.

Dec. 12: Filling the gaps for veterans with bad discharges Community and charity groups are scrambling to provide care where the VA is failing veterans who left the military with less-than-honorable discharges. Many of these groups have extensive experience with the problem; they say tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans faced the same problem.

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