Can I Get Unemployment With an OTH Discharge?

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Federal and state government agencies provide many forms of benefits to military veterans transitioning to civilian life. These include job training, job placement assistance, education funding and special unemployment benefits. Understanding whether you can receive unemployment after an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge requires a look at the nature of the discharge and the unemployment compensation program for veterans.

OTH Discharge

The military imposes OTH discharges on service members guilty of serious infractions. An OTH discharge constitutes the most severe type of administrative discharge, according to the authors of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Your Military and Veterans Benefits.” Administrative discharges include all those not ordered by a court. Reasons for OTH discharge include conviction in a civil trial, desertion, conscientious objection, AWOL status for more than 180 days or as a voluntary substitute to court martial. The government bars OTH recipients from reenlisting in any branch of the military.

Military Unemployment

The Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers (UCX) program provides unemployment benefits to former military personnel transitioning to civilian life. A federal program administered at the state level, it helps ex-service members find employment while paying benefits. UCX makes no residency requirements, meaning any former service member can file anywhere in the United States. Only honorably discharged personnel receive these benefits. An OTH discharge automatically disqualifies you from receiving any ex-military unemployment benefits. This program also excludes reservists – only former active duty personnel qualify.

Other Veterans' Benefits

An OTH automatically exempts you from the USX program, but not from all veterans’ benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs determines whether an OTH discharge disqualifies you from other benefits on a case-by-case basis. Code of Federal Regulations Title 38 Section 3.12 provides guidelines for deciding whether to provide benefits to an OTH recipient. Benefits at stake include military pension, education funding, home loans, life insurance, small business assistance, health care, disability compensation and mental health assistance programs.

State Unemployment Benefits

No law explicitly prevents ex-military personnel from applying for state unemployment benefits outside of the UCX program. However, state programs only provide benefits to those fired from a job through no fault of their own. An OTH discharge implies that the recipient conducted herself in such a way as to merit firing. If you attempt to apply for state unemployment benefits after an OTH discharge, the state may direct you toward the USX program or flatly refuse benefits based on the nature of the discharge.

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