Today we are going to discuss the term AWOL, which stands for ABSENT WITHOUT OFFICIAL LEAVE. AWOL can be considered desertion (if AWOL more than 30 days) or a temporary absence. This is when a person is absent from their post without a valid pass or leave.
If you received an other than honorable discharge and were AWOL for more than 180 consecutive days, it will be next to impossible to receive any type of service connected benefits. If you were AWOL for shorter periods of time, there are some circumstances that would allow you to obtain benefits, but this is at the discretion of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Some factors will be considered when deciding if you will be granted service connected benefits. First of all, the VA will consider the length and character of your service, excluding the time you were AWOL. The time of service that you were not AWOL should be characterized as honest, faithful and have merit and should have been a benefit to the United States.
There are also some circumstances that are given consideration for being AWOL. They include family emergencies or obligations including obligations or duties that were owed to a third party. The veteran’s age, cultural background, educational level and maturity will also be considered when determining eligibility for benefits. The VA will consider how the veteran felt at the time and how the veteran may have reacted, not necessarily how the VA veterans services representative would have reacted in the same circumstance. There are also times that a veteran may have been injured in combat or had other injuries occur while on active duty. It will be sympathetically considered by the VA how the veteran may have reacted due to the veteran’s state of mind at the time the AWOL period began.
If you had some AWOL time but received an honorable discharge, you normally would be entitled to VA benefits. Any disability incurred while AWOL or in the brig cannot be service-connected.