TITUSVILLE — A recent study by the National Veterans Legal Service Program (NVLSP), Swords to Plowshares and Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic found that 125,000 veterans with bad paper discharges have been wrongfully denied access to VA health care and benefits due to VA’s strict interpretation of character of discharge eligibility.
Under current law, veterans who have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable are eligible for VA benefits. While the law only requires VA to evaluate whether the service of veterans with a punitive discharge (bad conduct and dishonorable) meets the legal threshold of dishonorable, VA regulations also require claims adjudicators to conduct a character of discharge analysis for veterans who received an other-than-honorable discharge. The report finds that 90 percent of character of discharge reviews result in the denial of benefits.
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Last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter signed into creation the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal (IRCM) to American service members battling terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.
To qualify, a member must have been present in Iraq, Syria or the contiguous waters or airspace of either country on or after June 15, 2014, for a period of 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days. Service members who were killed or were medically evacuated due to wounds or injuries immediately qualify for the award, as do members who engaged in combat.
The IRCM’s placement in the hierarchy of medals and ribbons will be after the Iraq Campaign Medal and before the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
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The month of April has many important dates. Here are just a few:
April 5 is Gold Star Wives Day, April 14 is Air Force Reserve Day, April 18 is the deadline to file your income taxes and April 23 is the Army Reserve birthday.
Charlie Castelluccio, a Titusville resident, is chaplain of northwest Pennsylvania’s 28th District of Veterans of Foreign Wars and is a member of Titusville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5958.