July 14, 2020

Chairman Takano, Luria Respond to the Long Awaited VA Character of Discharge Regulation

Press Contact

Jenni Geurink (Takano) | 202-819-4684

Julia Savel (Luria) | 202-754-0270

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D- Calif.) and Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Chair Elaine Luria (D-VA.) released the following statements regarding the new Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed federal regulation to update and clarify regulatory bars to benefits based on character of discharge (COD). VA’s proposed rule comes after almost four years of pushing from Veteran Service Organizations and advocates like Kris Goldsmith, a “bad paper” veteran who shared his powerful testimony last week, and just two days after the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs hearing “Stuck in Red Paper: How VA’s Regulatory Policies Prevent Bad Paper Veterans from Accessing Critical Benefits” that detailed the barriers Other Than Honorable (OTH) veterans face.


“VA’s proposed rule to update its character of discharge policy is a clear win for the LGBTQ community-- finally removing archaic references to same sex preference and other discriminatory language that has historically precluded LGBTQ veterans from receiving the benefits they earned,” said Chairman Takano. “We have to make sure this is more than a feel good exercise and that VA continues to engage with advocates to create a rule that is fair to all “bad paper” veterans and increases access to key benefits and care. The 500,000 veterans currently left out of the VA system cannot afford any further delays in the search for an equitable process.”


“Just two days after our Subcommittee hearing, VA finally published its proposed rule, and I’m grateful that our oversight could play a role in expediting a process that’s taken almost four years,” said Chair Luria. “VA’s proposal is a step in the right direction by removing all references to sexual orientation and assuring that VA will consider ‘compelling circumstances’ as it determines a veteran’s character of discharge. However, the definition of ‘willful and persistent misconduct’ is unclear-- as written, two minor behavioral issues within two years could bar a veteran from benefits. The proposal also fails to extend the ‘compelling circumstances’ consideration to veterans discharged in lieu of general court-martial, a rule that could adversely impact veterans of some branches like the Army and Air Force that use that separation process more frequently. VA’s final rule must ensure that all veterans receive fair consideration for these much needed benefits.”