In The Know

Veterans Team—What is a “Bad Discharge”?

By: Karin Nordstrom, Staff Attorney

A “Bad discharge” is the term used to describe any stigmatizing discharge from the military. When a veteran leaves the military, they are given a sheet of paper called a DD-214. This one small sheet is the most important document a veteran ever receives because it is their proof of service. A DD-214 includes their discharge status and reason for separation. There are six military discharge statuses: honorable, general under honorable conditions, other than honorable, bad conduct discharge, dishonorable, and uncharacterized. Anything below an honorable discharge can create serious consequences for the rest of a veteran’s life. It can affect housing, employment, and eligibility for veterans’ benefits programs, including treatment for service-connected disabilities. This snapshot on a DD-214 sometimes unfairly stigmatizes a veteran without telling the whole story.

History of “bad discharges”
We didn’t always have this system of discharges. During World War I, the military started using “blue discharges.” These discharges were considered neither honorable nor dishonorable but were just supposed to remove members that were not fit for battle. However, they were often used for discriminatory purposes, like removing LGBTQ servicemembers. Blue discharges were also disproportionately issued to black veterans. 22.3% off all blue discharges from December 1, 1941 – June 30, 1945 were given to Black veterans, while only 6.5% of the Army was Black at that time.

After reports of overuse of blue discharges, Congress added a discharge review board in the 1944 G.I. Bill to review blue discharges. Eventually the military discontinued blue discharges in May 1947. Congress replaced them with “general” and “undesirable.” The category “other than honorable” was added during the Vietnam War. During this time, LGBTQ and members of color disproportionately received these bad discharges. In 1972, the Department of Defense released a report finding disparate treatment of Black and Latino/Latinx servicemembers in military discipline procedures.

The Legacy Continues
Many veterans get a bad discharge for circumstances beyond their control. Trauma is an occupational hazard of the military from combat, humanitarian missions, high rates of sexual assault, discrimination, etc. Many posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms like a quick temper or self-medication with drugs can look like misconduct to a military command. Many veterans find themselves with a bad discharge for misconduct that is directly linked to a service-connected disability or for unfair targeting due to a minority status.

This problem is becoming even more important as the number of bad discharges increases. In 2015, the total number of living veterans with an OTH discharge reached 1.2 million people. Army discharges for misconduct have risen 25% since 2009, mirroring the percentage of wounded veterans. At the eight Army posts which house the most combat units, bad discharges have risen 67% since 2009.

What can you do about it?
First, do not stigmatize veterans with bad discharges. Accept that the circumstances of someone’s service and discharge are complicated. They cannot be reduced to a couple of words on a page. Second, if someone you know has received an unfair bad discharge, encourage them to apply for a discharge upgrade. The application process is long and can bring back a lot of trauma for the veteran. Support them in the process and submit character references and statements of support on their behalf. If you’re a Central Ohio veteran and would like to know more about applying for a discharge upgrade, visit the veterans’ page on our website.


Ohio State Legal Services Association Receives Federal Grant to Tackle Fair Housing Issues in Central Ohio

Columbus, OH—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced the release of more than $13 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for 51 HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) agencies, including more than $317,000 to Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLSA). HUD awarded the grant to OSLSA to expand fair housing services into Franklin County by partnering with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC).

The funding will enable organizations like OSLSA to conduct a range of fair housing enforcement, education, and outreach activities related to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing discriminatory housing practices in underserved communities is one of the priorities of the grant. The funds are the first ARPA competitive grants in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) that directly address the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on communities of color, lower-income communities, and other underserved and vulnerable populations.

“We know the effects of COVID have been especially devastating to communities of color and lower-income populations,” said Kristen Lewis, Advocacy Director for LASC’s sister organization, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (SEOLS). “This funding will enable our Tenant Advocacy Project to screen 2,000 Franklin County Municipal Court eviction cases for fair housing violations. In cases where there is suspected housing discrimination, we will investigate and pursue claims.”

“This project substantially increases our capacity to screen for fair housing violations and take actions in cases with merit,” said Ben Horne, LASC’s Advocacy Director. “If there’s evidence of discrimination, we can file an administrative complaint at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission or HUD. And, when appropriate, we can pursue affirmative case litigation in state or federal court.”

LASC annual forum to address early childhood education


The Legal Aid Society of Columbus announces the theme of its second annual community forum. This year’s program, which is sponsored by PNC, will discuss improving access to affordable, quality early childhood education in order to increase economic opportunity for low-income families. Panelists include LeeAnne Cornyn, Director of Children’s Initiatives, Office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine; Erik Karolak, CEO of Action for Children; Brenda Rivers, Senior Vice-President of Early Childhood and Family Services, Child Development Council of Franklin County, Inc. and Tiffany Williams, a preschool parent. United Way of Central Ohio President and CEO Lisa Courtice will moderate.

Please join us from 8 to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 at The Wells Barn at Franklin Park Conservatory, 1777 E. Broad Street, Columbus, 43203. Breakfast will be served. Tickets are $25. Register here by Oct. 11.

You may be eligible for help in paying for some of your Medicare costs!

Did you know that you may be eligible for help in paying for some of your Medicare costs…including your monthly Medicare Part B premium?

Ohio’s Medicare Savings Programs (formerly “buy in” programs or premium assistance programs) provide financial assistance to individuals that are eligible for Medicare, have assets that do not exceed program limits, and the family’s income is:

  • Below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL):
    • May be eligible for Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries (QMB) that pays your Medicare Part B premium AND Medicare out-of-pocket expenses that includes your Medicare Part A deductible and your 20% of Medicare covered services.
  • Between 100% and 120% of the FPL:
    • May be eligible for Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries (SLMB) that pays your Medicare Part B premium.
  • No more than 135% of the FPL:
    • May be eligible for Qualified Individuals-1 (QI-1) that pays your Medicare Part B premium.

Please note that as of December 1, 2015, the Ohio Department of Medicaid expanded the definition of “family” when determining whether or not an individual meets the income requirements for this assistance.  If you were previously denied coverage because your income was too high, but you have a spouse and/or children in your home, you should reapply for assistance

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