Utah legislation could give veterans benefits for general discharges
A task force favors clarifying Utah statutes to make services and benefits available to veterans who received honorable and general discharges from the military.
Such a change is not expected to impact the number of veterans who receive services and benefits from the state. The proposal was unanimously approved Thursday in a meeting of the Utah Veterans Reintegration Task Force. Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, will sponsor a bill codifying the change during the legislative session that begins in January.
Current laws differ about which type of veteran receives benefits, said Esther Cheslea-McCarty, the legislative associate general counsel.
For example, a veteran applying for a commercial driver license in Utah can have a skills test waived if he or she received an honorable discharge. But another law says veterans can receive preference in college admissions in Utah if he or she received "other than a dishonorable discharge." Still another statute gives a tax break to employers who hire a new veteran who received an honorable or general discharge.
A general discharge can be issued to personnel who performed their duties satisfactory but whose performance suffered at the end of their service. Cheslea-McCarty suggested it is a group of veterans who served well but are often not eligible for benefits.
"By requiring a lot of [benefit qualifications] just be honorable, we're denying some of our military members benefits," Cheslea-McCarty said.
Brian Garrett, a task force member, said some general discharges are issued to people suffering from trauma or mental health problems at the end of their service. That group could receive more benefits with the proposed change, he said.
"We're all aware of people who were discharged under less than honorable conditions who are trying to get their life on track," Garrett said.
Twitter: @natecarlisle Types of U.S. military discharges
Honorable • Received rating of good to excellent for their service.
General • Can be issued to personnel who performed their duties satisfactory but whose performance suffered at the end of their service.
Other than honorable • Typically given to members convicted by a civilian court and sentenced to prison but can also be issued for a serious departure from expected performance.
Bad conduct • Punitive discharge given by a court martial.
Dishonorable • Punitive discharge given by a court martial for the most serious offenses such as desertion, sex assault or murder.
Source: Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs