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VA benefits disappear if someone is dishonorably discharged from military

SEATTLE — The man behind the mass shooting at a Texas church served in the Air Force until 2012. That’s when Devin Kelley was court-martialed after severely assaulting his child and spouse. He spent a year in confinement after pleading guilty.

“He was convicted, and with a dishonorable discharge does not deserve to have the same title as the man and woman who have served this country,” Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Monday.

Despite Shulkin’s comments, Kelley was not dishonorably discharged and instead received a bad conduct discharge.

On Monday, Shulkin said he does not consider Kelley to be a military veteran.

“Have violated the law, have violated our moral and our ethics — and I do not believe he deserves the types of services and benefits and the VA would not be providing those benefits,” Shulkin said.

Federal rules bar resources for anyone discharged from the military after committing a crime but there are exceptions.

“Those with other than dishonorable deserves we do believe are in need of our assistance and help,” Shulkin said.

Someone who is let go from service under conditions other than dishonorable can seek mental help — things like inpatient or outpatient care to residential live in programs are available.

People trying to find a motive for Kelley’s murderous rampage wonder if he was mentally ill.

“He had to have some kind of mental illness, I think to walk in and go into a church like that knowing there are children and not caring,” Wilson County (Texas) Sheriff Joe Tackitt said.

But with the gunman dead we may never get all the answers.

“I don’t think we know enough about his state of mind to give him a diagnosis. Unfortunately, in this world, there are people that are evil,” Shulkin said.

There are outside organizations from the VA that provide mental health care. Groups like Give an Hour say they take local cases even if the person has been dishonorably discharged from the military.