38 CFR 3.12 - Character of discharge.

Status message

There are 5 Updates appearing in the Federal Register for 38 CFR 3. View below or at eCFR (GPOAccess)
§ 3.12 Character of discharge.
(a) If the former service member did not die in service, pension, compensation, or dependency and indemnity compensation is not payable unless the period of service on which the claim is based was terminated by discharge or release under conditions other than dishonorable. (38 U.S.C. 101(2)). A discharge under honorable conditions is binding on the Department of Veterans Affairs as to character of discharge.
(b) A discharge or release from service under one of the conditions specified in this section is a bar to the payment of benefits unless it is found that the person was insane at the time of committing the offense causing such discharge or release or unless otherwise specifically provided (38 U.S.C. 5303(b)).
(c) Benefits are not payable where the former service member was discharged or released under one of the following conditions:
(1) As a conscientious objector who refused to perform military duty, wear the uniform, or comply with lawful order of competent military authorities.
(2) By reason of the sentence of a general court-martial.
(3) Resignation by an officer for the good of the service.
(4) As a deserter.
(5) As an alien during a period of hostilities, where it is affirmatively shown that the former service member requested his or her release. See § 3.7(b).
(6) By reason of a discharge under other than honorable conditions issued as a result of an absence without official leave (AWOL) for a continuous period of at least 180 days. This bar to benefit entitlement does not apply if there are compelling circumstances to warrant the prolonged unauthorized absence. This bar applies to any person awarded an honorable or general discharge prior to October 8, 1977, under one of the programs listed in paragraph (h) of this section, and to any person who prior to October 8, 1977, had not otherwise established basic eligibility to receive Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. The term established basic eligibility to receive Department of Veterans Affairs benefits means either a Department of Veterans Affairs determination that an other than honorable discharge was issued under conditions other than dishonorable, or an upgraded honorable or general discharge issued prior to October 8, 1977, under criteria other than those prescribed by one of the programs listed in paragraph (h) of this section. However, if a person was discharged or released by reason of the sentence of a general court-martial, only a finding of insanity (paragraph (b) of this section) or a decision of a board of correction of records established under 10 U.S.C. 1552 can estalish basic eligibility to receive Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. The following factors will be considered in determining whether there are compelling circumstances to warrant the prolonged unauthorized absence.
(i) Length and character of service exclusive of the period of prolonged AWOL. Service exclusive of the period of prolonged AWOL should generally be of such quality and length that it can be characterized as honest, faithful and meritorious and of benefit to the Nation.
(ii) Reasons for going AWOL. Reasons which are entitled to be given consideration when offered by the claimant include family emergencies or obligations, or similar types of obligations or duties owed to third parties. The reasons for going AWOL should be evaluated in terms of the person's age, cultural background, educational level and judgmental maturity. Consideration should be given to how the situation appeared to the person himself or herself, and not how the adjudicator might have reacted. Hardship or suffering incurred during overseas service, or as a result of combat wounds of other service-incurred or aggravated disability, is to be carefully and sympathetically considered in evaluating the person's state of mind at the time the prolonged AWOL period began.
(iii) A valid legal defense exists for the absence which would have precluded a conviction for AWOL. Compelling circumstances could occur as a matter of law if the absence could not validly be charged as, or lead to a conviction of, an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. For purposes of this paragraph the defense must go directly to the substantive issue of absence rather than to procedures, technicalities or formalities.
(d) A discharge or release because of one of the offenses specified in this paragraph is considered to have been issued under dishonorable conditions.
(1) Acceptance of an undesirable discharge to escape trial by general court-martial.
(2) Mutiny or spying.
(3) An offense involving moral turpitude. This includes, generally, conviction of a felony.
(4) Willful and persistent misconduct. This includes a discharge under other than honorable conditions, if it is determined that it was issued because of willful and persistent misconduct. A discharge because of a minor offense will not, however, be considered willful and persistent misconduct if service was otherwise honest, faithful and meritorious.
(5) Homosexual acts involving aggravating circumstances or other factors affecting the performance of duty. Examples of homosexual acts involving aggravating circumstances or other factors affecting the performance of duty include child molestation, homosexual prostitution, homosexual acts or conduct accompanied by assault or coercion, and homosexual acts or conduct taking place between service members of disparate rank, grade, or status when a service member has taken advantage of his or her superior rank, grade, or status.
(e) An honorable discharge or discharge under honorable conditions issued through a board for correction of records established under authority of 10 U.S.C. 1552 is final and conclusive on the Department of Veterans Affairs. The action of the board sets aside any prior bar to benefits imposed under paragraph (c) or (d) of this section.
(f) An honorable or general discharge issued prior to October 8, 1977, under authority other than that listed in paragraphs (h) (1), (2) and (3) of this section by a discharge review board established under 10 U.S.C. 1553 set aside any bar to benefits imposed under paragraph (c) or (d) of this section except the bar contained in paragraph (c)(2) of this section.
(g) An honorable or general discharge issued on or after October 8, 1977, by a discharge review board established under 10 U.S.C. 1553, sets aside a bar to benefits imposed under paragraph (d), but not paragraph (c), of this section provided that:
(1) The discharge is upgraded as a result of an individual case review;
(2) The discharge is upgraded under uniform published standards and procedures that generally apply to all persons administratively discharged or released from active military, naval or air service under conditions other than honorable; and
(3) Such standards are consistent with historical standards for determining honorable service and do not contain any provision for automatically granting or denying an upgraded discharge.
(h) Unless a discharge review board established under 10 U.S.C. 1553 determines on an individual case basis that the discharge would be upgraded under uniform standards meeting the requirements set forth in paragraph (g) of this section, an honorable or general discharge awarded under one of the following programs does not remove any bar to benefits imposed under this section:
(1) The President's directive of January 19, 1977, implementing Presidential Proclamation 4313 of September 16, 1974; or
(2) The Department of Defense's special discharge review program effective April 5, 1977; or
(3) Any discharge review program implemented after April 5, 1977, that does not apply to all persons administratively discharged or released from active military service under other than honorable conditions.
(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 5303 (e))
(i) No overpayments shall be created as a result of payments made after October 8, 1977, based on an upgraded honorable or general discharge issued under one of the programs listed in paragraph (h) of this section which would not be awarded under the standards set forth in paragraph (g) of this section. Accounts in payment status on or after October 8, 1977, shall be terminated the end of the month in which it is determined that the original other than honorable discharge was not issued under conditions other than dishonorable following notice from the appropriate discharge review board that the discharge would not have been upgraded under the standards set forth in paragraph (g) of this section, or April 7, 1978, whichever is the earliest. Accounts in suspense (either before or after October 8, 1977) shall be terminated on the date of last payment or April 7, 1978, whichever is the earliest.
(j) No overpayment shall be created as a result of payments made after October 8, 1977, in cases in which the bar contained in paragraph (c)(6) of this section is for application. Accounts in payment status on or after October 8, 1977, shall be terminated at the end of the month in which it is determined that compelling circumstances do not exist, or April 7, 1978, whichever is the earliest. Accounts in suspense (either before or after October 8, 1977) shall be terminated on the date of last payment, or April 7, 1978, whichever is the earliest.
(k) Uncharacterized separations. Where enlisted personnel are administratively separated from service on the basis of proceedings initiated on or after October 1, 1982, the separation may be classified as one of the three categories of administrative separation that do not require characterization of service by the military department concerned. In such cases conditions of discharge will be determined by the VA as follows:
(1) Entry level separation. Uncharacterized administrative separations of this type shall be considered under conditions other than dishonorable.
(2) Void enlistment or induction. Uncharacterized administrative separations of this type shall be reviewed based on facts and circumstances surrounding separation, with reference to the provisions of § 3.14 of this part, to determine whether separation was under conditions other than dishonorable.
(3) Dropped from the rolls. Uncharacterized administrative separations of this type shall be reviewed based on facts and circumstances surrounding separation to determine whether separation was under conditions other than dishonorable.
(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 501)
Cross References:
Validity of enlistments. See § 3.14. Revision of decisions. See § 3.105. Effective dates. See § 3.400(g). Minimum active-duty service requirement. See § 3.12a.
[28 FR 123, Jan. 4, 1963, as amended at 41 FR 12656, Mar. 26, 1976; 43 FR 15153, Apr. 11, 1978; 45 FR 2318, Jan. 11, 1980; 49 FR 44099, Nov. 2, 1984; 62 FR 14823, Mar. 28, 1997]

Title 38 published on 2014-07-01

The following are only the Rules published in the Federal Register after the published date of Title 38.

For a complete list of all Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices view the Rulemaking tab.

  • 2014-09-25; vol. 79 # 186 - Thursday, September 25, 2014
    1. 79 FR 57660 - Standard Claims and Appeals Forms
      GPO FDSys XML | Text
      DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
      Final rule.
      Effective Date: This final rule is effective March 24, 2015.
      38 CFR Parts 3, 19, and 20

This is a list of United States Code sections, Statutes at Large, Public Laws, and Presidential Documents, which provide rulemaking authority for this CFR Part.

This list is taken from the Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules provided by GPO [Government Printing Office].

It is not guaranteed to be accurate or up-to-date, though we do refresh the database weekly. More limitations on accuracy are described at the GPO site.


United States Code
U.S. Code: Title 10 - ARMED FORCES
U.S. Code: Title 28 - JUDICIARY AND JUDICIAL PROCEDURE
U.S. Code: Title 38 - VETERANS’ BENEFITS
Statutes at Large
Public Laws

Title 38 published on 2014-07-01

The following are ALL rules, proposed rules, and notices (chronologically) published in the Federal Register relating to 38 CFR 3 after this date.

  • 2014-12-02; vol. 79 # 231 - Tuesday, December 2, 2014
    1. 79 FR 71366 - Additional Compensation on Account of Children Adopted Out of Veteran's Family
      GPO FDSys XML | Text
      DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
      Proposed rule.
      Comments must be received on or before February 2, 2015.
      38 CFR Part 3