Living With Bad Paper

A Ticket to Homelessness?

A Ticket to Homelessness?

Joining the military could be a kind of solution for young men and women who do not have great job prospects upon leaving high school. But what if the desire for “street cred” overrides good judgment, and the GI finds himself or herself with a discharge that is considered to be Other Than Honorable, or simply OTH? Another name for such a discharge is “Bad Paper.”

For over a million former soldiers, sailors, and airmen, Bad Paper is a ticket to homelessness without the possibilities of veterans’ benefits such as education, homelessness prevention, and disability or health care. That’s not even to mention the turned-down job applications and the loss of esteem that follows.

For those who leave the military with a trail of Bad Paper, it would have been better if they were merely felons in the civilian world: The military world is unforgiving and sometimes unduly punitive. When questioned about this, General Martin Dempsey replied:

I wouldn’t suggest that we should in any way reconsider the way we characterize discharges at the time of occurrence…. It is a complex issue and we all make choices in life that then we live with for the rest of our lives and I think we have to understand that as well.

Not much help there.

Ideally, there would be some kind of civilian post-discharge review that could rectify the vagaries of military justice, which varies widely from service to service and from one unit to another.