VRAP for “Other Than Dishonorable Discharge”

Most of my clients and potential clients received a less-than-honorable discharge from the military. For many, the most immediate consequence is a loss of educational benefits (most notably, the Post-9/11 GI Bill (worth tens of thousands of dollars)).

They are left looking to obtain employment and training. Most lack means and are forced to accept menial employment and day-labor tasks. It’s a helluva fall from military member with pay and benefits to day-labor.

Help exists in the form of VRAP (Veterans Retraining Assistance Program), but slots are limited. Per the VA:

The VRAP offers 12 months of training assistance to Veterans who:

  • Are at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
  • Are unemployed on the date of application
  • Received an other than dishonorable discharge
  • Are not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance)
  • Are not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
  • Are not enrolled in a federal or state job training program

The program is limited to 45,000 participants from July 1, 2012, through September 30, 2012, and 54,000 participants from October 1, 2012, through March 31, 2014. Participants must attend full-time in order to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the monthly full-time payment rate under the Montgomery GI Bill–Active Duty program ($1,564 effective October 1, 2012). DOL will offer employment assistance to every Veteran who participates upon completion of the program.

Participants must be enrolled in a VA approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school. The program must lead to an Associate Degree, Non-College Degree, or a Certificate, and train the Veteran for a high demand occupation.

Many veterans who leave the military with a less-than-honorable characterization of service abandon hope of receiving educational/vocational benefits. Here’s why they should consider this program.

  • Most do not have a Dishonorable Discharge. 5 types of discharges exist, and 4 of them are “other than dishonorable.” The discharges (characterizations of service) are:
  1. Honorable
  2. General (Under Honorable Conditions)
  3. Other-Than-Honorable (OTH)
  4. Bad-Conduct Discharge (BCD)
  5. Dishonorable Discharge
  • Anyone receiving a General, OTH, or BCD loses eligibility for any other VA educational benefit (Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI Bills).
  • This policy also does not appear to exclude individuals who receive Entry-Level/Uncharacterized separations during their first 6 months of service.

So, please pass this word to any down-and-out veterans you know. It may be just what they need to get back on their feet after a less-than-auspicious exit from the military.

When in doubt, apply.

Note: I didn’t write this post as a solicitation for questions. It is for informational purposes only. To determine your eligibility for this program, contact the VA through the internet or your local VA service center.

Nonsensical and Dangerous (Updated)

Most of you already know that the Supreme Court of Kansas chose to disbar former Navy Judge Advocate Matthew Diaz, who was convicted of, in short, improper handling and disseminating of classified material while serving as a defense lawyer at GITMO. Interestingly, they chose not to accept the recommendation of the disciplinary administrator that would have allowed Diaz to practice law.

Here’s a bit more detail on the conviction, via the appellate decision (notes: “composed of members” means that he had a jury and a dismissal is equivalent to a dishonorable discharge).

A general court-martial composed of members convicted Appellant, contrary to his pleas, of one specification of violating a lawful general order, one specification of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, one specification of communicating classified information, and one specification of removing classified material, in violation of Articles 92, 133, and 134, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. §§ 892, 933, 934 (2000). The members sentenced Appellant to six months confinement and dismissal from the Navy. The convening authority approved the findings and the sentence as adjudged.

There are many lessons to be learned from this case. CAAFlog has already done an excellent job of recapping this debacle. I’d like to highlight two points:

1. No enough was made about the involvement of a Chihuahua.

Prosecutors said Diaz went to his office in January 2005 and used his classified computer to log onto a classified military network and access a database with detainee information. They say he printed information that included the names of 550 detainees, their nationalities, the interrogators assigned to them and intelligence sources and methods.

Prosecutors said Diaz then cut the document into 39 sheets that he placed inside a card with a big heart and a Chihuahua on its front and mailed it to Barbara Olshansky, who at the time worked for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The nonprofit legal group was suing the federal government to obtain the names of detainees after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the detainees had the right to challenge their detention. Olshansky turned the document over to federal authorities, and they traced it to Diaz.

How bad is it when the nonprofit seeking to nail the government turns your handiwork over to the government?

2. It is important that, in any appellate matter, we as advocates should avoid having our arguments labeled as “nonsensical and dangerous.”

We begin our analysis by recognizing that in apparent support of respondent’s position that the military courts have sufficiently disciplined him, he repeats an argument he made before those tribunals. Respondent essentially argues that while his actions were wrong his motive was virtuous. In short, he disclosed the information to protect the Guantanamo Bay detainees’ habeas corpus rights declared in the United States Supreme Court opinion of Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466, 124 S. Ct. 2886, 159 L. Ed. 2d 548 (2004). During the general court-martial proceedings, that tribunal excluded respondent’s motive evidence showing his purported honorable intent in disclosing the classified information. As noted by the hearing panel, the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, finding his motive argument “nonsensical and dangerous.” United States v. Diaz, No. 200700970, 2009 WL 690614, at *5 (N.M. Ct. Crim. App. 2009) (unpublished opinion).


Going back 5 years (while I was still in uniform), Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice addressed this very topic, prior to both appellate decisions (published CAAF decision and unpublished NMCCA decision) and disbarment action. Interesting to juxtapose his take on this subject with the eventual decisions of three appellate courts.

‘Tis the Season for Warm Wishes

During this most festive time of year, one thing we at Unwashed Advocate adore are holiday thoughts from our devoted and upscale readership. Sometimes, the comments are unabashedly seasonal, with well-wishes and hopes for future prosperity.

Others are more abrupt, but with a unique sense of honesty. This is our favorite.

So, be festive this time of year as you regard your fellow man, but also honest. People will thank you for it.

AVVOcalypse Now

Once upon a time, I found the little world of Avvo to be cute, and humorous. They devised their little grading system for lawyers that, essentially, rewarded attorneys for working really hard entering data on a profile. The scores were ripe for various double entendres. It was good fun.

Then, I noticed that they provided a Q&A portion of their site for lawyers to further improve their Avvo length and girth. It was amusing to see practitioners scrambling to provide free advice to unknown individuals in unknown jurisdictions. They seemed positively desperate to be the first, learned person to answer various insipid inquiries, but then I started thinking about the ethical problems with such advice. I don’t care how many disclaimers you splash across the page, people are going to rely upon the words of lawyers when they address specific legal questions.

Yet, I still found it to be more amusing than harmful.

After the release of bar results each year, you could count on a swarm of brand-new lawyers flooding the site and “earning” high scores, with great marks in the “experience” subcategory.

None of my friends has ever found a meaningful client through the site, so we find Avvo’s apparent importance to be mostly amusing. However, the longer it existed, the more influence Avvo gained. Now, solidly-established lawyers tout their 10.0 score on websites and fliers (Full disclosure: I’m but a puny 7.7. Too small to be a “big hitter” and yet too big to qualify for subsidized Enzyte) . It makes me sad (the experienced attorneys touting their score, not my inability to receive chemical assistance for growth).

Recently, Avvo sunk to a new low. They now advertise an upcoming webinar for downtrodden, scared, and new lawyers who want to make millions in legal practice, with minimal effort.

What is Avvo doing? A webinar. I could tell you, but, instead, I’ll show you.

Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving

All of us at Unwashed Advocate wish you and your family a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

May your cranberry sauce be in the shape of a can, as god intended.

The First Gift of Xmas

An early holiday present arrived today at Unwashed Advocate, and it’s a good’n. Big thanks to my most trusted and valued friend.

I’d never before seen this particular guide, published by the Air Force, but it is a great one-over-the-world of military legal considerations from a commander’s perspective (which is the most important factor in military law). While it is decidedly focused on the Air Force, 95% of it can be applied jointly.

If you find yourself practicing in an area near a military installation, this is a great reference to have on your shelf, or in your digital library.