Can my criminal history limit my ability to get VA benefits?

Yes. You’re not eligible for VA compensation, pension, or death benefits if:

    You’re currently wanted for an open warrant on a felony charge;
    You’re violating a probation or parole condition for a felony sentence;[1767] or
    You have a felony conviction that led to your discharge[1768]—unless and until the VA reviews your case and determines that the circumstances leading to your discharge may have been “other than dishonorable.”[1769]

In addition, for certain VA benefits, your benefit amounts will be restricted or discontinued if you’ve been incarcerated for 60 or more days for a felony conviction.

IMPORTANT: INFORMATION ABOUT MILITARY SERVICE & DISCHARGE CONDITIONS: If you served more than one term of active military service, and your discharge for one of the terms was under dishonorable conditions, you may not be eligible for VA benefits based on that term—however, if your discharge for a different term of service ended under honorable conditions, you can still be eligible for VA benefits based on this separate term.[1770]Also, if you completed a full term of enlistment, and it didn’t end with a formal discharge because you later reenlisted, you can still be eligible for VA benefits based on completion of that first term.[1771]If you have disabilities that are service-connected, and your discharge was under dishonorable conditions, you may not be eligible for VA disability compensation due to your discharge status. However, as long as your discharge isn’t related to a situation that would absolutely disqualify you from VA benefits by law (see PG. 489) you may still be eligible for VA health care benefits (e.g., treatment at a VA medical facility) for those disabilities.[1772].

  1. 1767

    38 U.S.C. § 5313B; C.F.R. 38 §§ 3.665(n), 3.666(e); Federal Benefits for Veterans Dependents & Survivors (2014), U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, www.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book.asp. If the VA believes that you are in violation of probation or parole you must be provided notice by the VA and an opportunity to present evidence, such as evidence that you are not in violation of probation or parole. See VBA Letter 20-14-09 (June 23, 2014). If the VA determines based upon the warrant and evidence that you submitted that you are fleeing from justice or violated a condition of your probation or parole, your benefits will be terminated. See VBA Letter 20-14-09 (June 23, 2014).

  2. 1768

    That is, if you were released because of an “offense involving moral turpitude.” 38 C.F.R. § 3.12(d); Claims for VA Benefits & Character of Discharge, U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/docs/COD_Factsheet.pdf.

  3. 1769

    Claims for VA Benefits & Character of Discharge, U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/docs/COD_Factsheet.pdf.

  4. 1770

    Claims for VA Benefits & Character of Discharge, U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/docs/COD_Factsheet.pdf.

  5. 1771

    For example, if an individual enlisted for three years, completed the three years and reenlisted for two more years, then received a discharge under other than honorable conditions during the second enlistment, VA benefits may be provided based on the first period of service, even if it is determined that the character of discharge of the second period of service is a bar to benefits. See Claims for VA Benefits & Character of Discharge, U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/docs/COD_Factsheet.pdf

  6. 1772

    Claims for VA Benefits & Character of Discharge: General Information, U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, http://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/docs/COD_Factsheet.pdf.