How Veterans Can Upgrade Their Discharge

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Legal OfficeDid you know veterans are able to upgrade their discharge? I didn’t. Apparently each military branch of service has two types of Boards that can grant discharge upgrades. It was created only to upgrade discharges, so you will never have to worry about being downgraded. The Boards can change both the character of the discharge and the narrative reason for the discharge. The Boards can also authorize monetary payments where appropriate.

Discharge Review Board (DRB)

In order to go before the DRB, the veteran can’t have more than 15 years since their date of discharge. No General Court Martial Conviction can be upgraded at this review board. The DRB does not change reenlistment codes or reinstate people to service. The veteran needs to complete an application for a DD293 and generally include their Official Military Personnel and Medical Records (OMPF). They should include anything else they want the board to consider, including a veteran personal statement. An attorney will generally prepare a brief to submit legal arguments warranting an upgrade, so the veteran should consult an attorney.

Standard of Review

The veteran must convince the board that their discharge reason or characterization was “inequitable” or “improper.” Inequitable means the reason or characterization of the discharge is not consistent with the policies and traditions of the service. For example, an inequity would be: “My discharge was inequitable because it was based on one isolated incident in 28 months of service with no other adverse action.” Improper means that the reason or characterization of the discharge was in error (i.e., is false, or violates a regulation or a law). For example, “The discharge was improper because the veteran’s pre-service civilian conviction, properly listed on his/her enlistment documents, was used in the discharge proceedings.”

Types of Review

A review can be on the record or on in-person. If you request on the record first, you can then request an in-person hearing if you did not win the first time. If you request the personal hearing first, you are finished at the DRB, you can submit a request for an upgrade to the Board of Correction for Military Records.

Board of Correction for Military Records (BCMR)

The BCMR may correct any military record when necessary to correct an error or remove an injustice. The statute of limitation is ordinarily three years from the date the error was discovered – the boards can waive this statute of limitations. The veteran needs to complete an application for a DD149 and generally include their OMPF. They should include anything else they want the board to consider, including a personal statement. Again, an attorney will generally prepare a brief to submit legal arguments warranting an upgrade, so the veteran should consult an attorney.

Standard of Review

The veteran must convince the board that their discharge reason or characterization was the result of “error” or “injustice.” An error means an error of fact, law procedure, or discretion that was prejudicial to the veteran. An injustice means that the discharge given was warranted based on the conduct of the soldier and to not change it would be wrong.

Clemency – Discharge occurring as a result of a court-martial conviction may only be upgraded by a grant of clemency and will include a review of all in service and post service conduct and medical conditions.

The intent of this discharge upgrade was to ease the application process for veterans who are seeking redress and assisting the Boards in reaching fair and consistent results. So, if your discharge is impeding you from receiving benefits and you’re a disabled veteran, or just a veteran looking to receive benefits for the first time , check-out upgrading your discharge.

If you were successful in upgrading your discharge, please let us know which Board you used and provide any tips, or recommendations below.

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