In 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) committed to revising its outdated and unjust Character of Discharge (COD) regulations. These regulations govern when veterans with other-than-honorable discharges are eligible for certain VA benefits. As they stood, the regulations disproportionately excluded veterans of color, veterans with mental health conditions, veterans at risk of suicide, and LGBTQ+ veterans from accessing basic VA benefits like healthcare and disability support.
In 2020, under the Trump Administration, the VA finally released proposed amendments to the regulations. In September, HAP, along with numerous other Veteran Service Organizations, submitted comments in response to the proposals. While HAP agreed, with some modifications, we ultimately believed that the proposed regulations would continue to seriously harm our clients and those veterans most in need.
On February 10, 2021, HAP joined attorneys, law professors, and advocates across the country in a letter to the newly appointed United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Denis R. McDonough asking Secretary McDonough to revise the proposed regulations, which, as they stand, go against the original law’s legislative intent, harm the most vulnerable veterans, and exacerbate an arbitrary and burdensome regulatory system. The letter proposes clearer standards that would create a more just and less challenging process for veterans.
We are optimistic that Secretary McDonough will be receptive to the letter and make the necessary changes to best help our veterans.