As a former service or current member, you may be entitled to a discharge upgrade or change in the reason you were separated or other changes to your service record. Laws change, people change and times change. Things that years ago were deemed wrong or unacceptable and warranted a discharge may now be considered acceptable. Too many service members have been the victims of unjust punishments at non-judicial punishment, improperly written counseling chits that prevent promotion, and other factually inaccurate paperwork that denied servicemembers the proper opportunity to challenge detrimental information in their service records. Service members discharged for reasons such as homosexuality, and marijuana use are faced with the prospect of living with discharges and characterizations of service that are unjust. Each of the services have mechanisms to remove unfair and inaccurate materials from a service member’s record active, retired, and discharged. There are ways to upgrade a discharge or the reason for separation. The process is not easy it requires time patience and expertise to succeed. There are also time limits and rules that if ignored or misunderstood may deprive a service member of their right to petition for change. The attorneys at JAGDEFENDERS have a remarkable record of success before these boards. DO NOT GO IT ALONE Call us for a free consultation.

DISCHARGE UPGRADE: You may be eligible for a discharge upgrade. All the services have Discharge Review Boards or DRBs. The Army Air Force and Coast Guard have their own Discharge Review Boards. The Navy and Marine Corps have a joint DRB A DRB only has TWO powers:

  • 1. It can upgrade a discharge unless the discharge resulted from a General Court-Martial. As a general matter, a service member’s discharge certificate or DD-214 shows the character of service” as either Honorable, General (Under Honorable Conditions), Other Than Honorable, Bad Conduct or Dishonorable. This appears in BLOCK 24 of a DD-214. The type of discharge can directly affect VA benefits eligibility, employment opportunities, and security clearance eligibility.
  • 2. It can also change the reason for a discharge, except that it can’t change the reason to a disability discharge or grant a disability discharge. There are many possible reasons for a separation these include misconduct, personality disorder, and homosexual conduct. Some of these reasons are outdated and illegal under the current law. There were also service members who were discharged for things like a personality disorder or even misconduct that were caused by PTSD or TBIs. This was before we understood how these things affect behavior. Recent changes to the law surrounding TBIs and PTSD greatly changed how the service handed discharges. The reason for a discharge can directly affect VA benefits eligibility, employment opportunities, and security clearance eligibility.

You generally have 15 years from the date of your discharge to apply to a DRB, HOWEVER, there are exceptions to this rule and a good attorney can greatly increase your chances of being granted an exception.

The deadline to apply for relief to a BCMR or BCNR is 3 years of the date you first discover the error or injustice that you’re seeking to correct. But this rule is riddled with exceptions and caveats. There are however 3 main exceptions to this rule:

  • 1. If a DRB denies your application you have 3 years to apply to a BCMR or BCNR for relief even if the injustice or error was discovered over 3 years ago.
  • 2. If there is a good reason or in the “interest of justice” to waive the 3-year deadline. Here is where a GOOD ATTORNEY is key to success.
  • 3. If there is an issue of PTSD or a TBI. Even if you were previously denied you can reapply and your petition is to be given “liberal consideration.” If you have a mental health condition, a TBI, PTSD, or were a victim of sexual assault CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION about your rights under the HAGEL, CARSON, and KURTA memos.

STANDARDS: Both DRBs and BCMR/BCNR have standards to grant relief. They use different terms but they are in some ways very similar.

DRBs consider “equity” (fairness) and “propriety” (legal error). The controlling directives detail Discharge Review Board (DRB) Procedures and Standards and provide a non-exclusive list of why a discharge might qualify as inequitable. These include: (A). Policies have changed since your discharge, and if current policies had been in place when you served, you probably would not have been discharged. A good example of this is homosexual conduct. (B). You received an OTH for a single offense after years of honorable service. We often see this for servicemembers discharged for one specification of marijuana use. (C). Severe personal or family problems or discrimination that affected your ability to serve.

If you claim illegality your petition needs to detail how your branch ignored or misapplied the law, regulation, or procedure that affected your discharge. It is easy to see how a GOOD ATTORNEY can help you here.

The system of records correction and discharge upgrades is deliberately confusing and difficult to navigate. The services favor the finality of results and records. The system is not designed to get easy relief. DO NOT GO IT ALONE. You may be missing out on years of benefits, medical care, and back pay. The lawyers at JAGDEFENDERS can help you rectify these injustices and get your career or post-military life back on track. They have filed numerous petitions before these boards and met with great success. Let them help you correct your record and restore your opportunity for a better military career or civilian life as a result. Call for a FREE consult today.


Board of Corrections and Discharge Review Boards - Jag Defenders