Long story short, I was ADSEP’d with an OTH back in the day following a combat deployment. SARPS diagnosed me with Adjustment Disorder w/Depressed mood and Alcohol dependency, but I completed the program and fought the ADSEP by taking a board review. While the board recommended to retain me with a conditional OTH upon further misconduct, my unit deployed before the board could convene and contrary to everything I had been told up until that moment, I received a 10 day letter with 5 days left on it informing me that the reviewing authority upheld the boards characterization of service but rejected their retention recommendation. It demolished me and I’ve seemingly never recovered. Thankfully some people pushed me to file a claim when I initially got home, but I moved all around in the interim, was told it was a fat chance in hell (2012) and that I was by default ineligible by my command/others. The initial claim was filed ~8 years ago and I was granted service connection for treatment purposes only for the ADJ Disorder w/Depr Mood, while the PTSD stressor was acknowledged (CAR) it was denied on the grounds that I did not attend a C&P exam.
Fast forward to a few months ago and I discover I can be seen for free at a Vet Center, where treatment leads me to eventually contacting a VSO. I’m told I’m ineligible but can file a discharge upgrade request with my branch, and the conversation snakes around to discovering a few files in my record that I’ve never seen in my life. After hours of some back and forth, I go from being emphatically told I’m ineligible due to my Discharge Characterization- to registered with free VA healthcare on the same phone call.
I don’t even know where to begin. No one at the VA can tell me what the letters mean exactly, just that I can apply and see what happens. The VSOs I’ve been able to get in touch with have been helpful with what they’ve shared so far, but also recommend that I get an attorney unless I want to just file a new/supplemental claim. I’m in a pretty bad spot and have been essentially since deployment, so to discover that I could have been getting help all of this time is both infuriating and crushing at the same time. I’ve been paying for school out of pocket and have been unemployed for almost a year now. Depression and who knows what else prevented me from filing for unemployment after it was granted, so it’s been a woozy of a year to say the least.
I guess I just need a solid direction to pursue. I don’t want to mess up anything, I just need help. I’ve applied to https://www.nvlsp.org/, but I’m not sure I can wait a year before any progress is made on this at all.
Here are two of the four records in my file the last VA rep I spoke to was able to access. What does this even mean?
ISSUE: Character of discharge.
ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION EVIDENCE:
DD Form 214
Facts and Circumstances from the Service Department
DECISION: The claimant’s service from XXXXXX to XXXXXX was under other than honorable conditions.
The claimant is entitled to receive VA benefits based upon this period of service.
The claimant is eligible for health care and, related benefits authorized under Chapter 17 of Title 38, United States Code, for any disability or disabilities incurred or aggravated in line of duty during active service.
REASONS AND BASES:
38’USC §101(2); 38 CFR 3.12(a)
38 CFR 3.12(d)
38 CFR 3.360
The claimant entered active duty in the U.S. XXXXXXX. The Facts and circumstances furnished by the service department show that after the Veteran returned from his tour station in Afghanistan, the claimant tested positive for TCH 35 (marijuana) and subsequently charged with misconduct due illegal drug use. It also states that despite the Veteran’s good conduct (awarded Good Conduct medal in XXXX), favorable character appraisal by his command, involvement in highly dangerous combat activities such as Mojave Viper and lack of evidence showing pattern of misconduct the board decided to appoint the claimant an other than honorable discharge:
This appears to have been an isolated incident. The Facts and Circumstances state that the Veteran was made the poor choice of turning to an illegal drug and alcohol to cope with his mental health issues derived after his tour in Afghanistan. Prior to this incident the claimant had not used any illegal substance or had any pattern of behavioral health issues. Furthermore, there is no pattern of misconduct that can be established With out restoring to mere speculation. With several mental health studies being done that have linked alcoholism & drug use as a coping mechanism to deal with untreated mental health issues such as anxiety, adjustment disorder & PTSD the claimant’s testimony is considered probable.
In view of the evidence of record it is determined that this offense does not constitute willful and persistent misconduct.
As well as this letter
We made a decision regarding your discharge from military service. Every effort was made to see that your claim received complete consideration.
This letter tells you what we decided, how we reached our decision and what evidence we used to reach our decision. We have also included information on what you can do if you don’t agree with our decision, and who to contact if you have questions or need assistance.
What We Decided
We decided that your military service for the period XXXXX through XXXXX is honorable for VA purposes. You and your dependents are eligible for any VA benefits for this period of military service.
How Did We Make Our Decision?
The evidence shows that your service from XXXXX to XXXX was under other than honorable conditions.
You are entitled to receive VA benefits based upon this period of service.
You are eligible for health care and related benefits authorized under Chapter 17 of Title 38, United States Code, for any disability or disabilities incurred or aggravated in line of duty during active service.
Evidence Used to Decide Your Claim
In making our decision, we used the following evidence:
• DD Form 214
• Facts and Circumstances from the Service Department