Can I Get A Discharge Upgrade
You can apply to the Discharge Review Board of your branch of the service for a discharge upgrade or a change in the discharge reason . To get your discharge upgraded or your character of service changed, you will have to show that your discharge was “improper” or “inequitable.” Improper means factually incorrect or inconsistent with the law. Inequitable means inconsistent with the traditions and policies of the service.
An example of a discharge that qualifies for an upgrade might be that a veteran served honorably and had a single bad incident or was abusing drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating post-traumatic stress disorder.
Upgrading Your Discharge And Changing The Reason For Your Discharge
We offer a how-to guide that explains the process of applying for a military discharge upgrade or a change in the reason for your military discharge.
Looking for services outside of the San Francisco Bay Area? Check out our comprehensive resource list of legal services in different states.â
Why Should I Apply For A Discharge Upgrade
The decision to apply for a discharge upgrade is different for each veteran. The first step in the process is to think about what you want to accomplish.
Common reasons for applying for a discharge upgrade include:
Eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits:
- Generally, veterans have access to VA benefits if the character of their discharge was honorable, under honorable conditions, or general.
- Upgrading a discharge that is less than honorable can lead to a veteran becoming eligible for VA benefits.
Removal of Social Stigma:
- A veterans discharge documents include the character of service, and the reason for discharge.
- Sometimes, the reason for discharge or the character of service can lead friends, family, employers, and others to think of the veteran in a negative light.
- A discharge upgrade could lead to the removal of stigma and increase employment opportunities.
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Va Mental Health Services
Find out how to access VA mental health services for posttraumatic stress disorder , psychological effects of military sexual trauma , depression, grief, anxiety, and other needs. You can use some services even if you’re not enrolled in VA health care.
How do I talk to someone right now?
Get free mental health care for a year after separationno matter your discharge status, service history, or eligibility for VA health care.
Getting started If you need support for a specific mental health problemor if you’re having problems sleeping, controlling your anger, or readjusting to civilian lifeyou are not alone. And we can help.
Over 1.7 million Veterans received mental health services at VA last year. Our services range from peer support with other Veterans to counseling, therapy, medication, or a combination of these options. Our goal is to help you take charge of your treatment and live a full and meaningful life.
How do I schedule my first appointment?
If you’re already using VA medical services, ask your primary care provider to help you make an appointment with a VA mental health provider.
If you’re not already using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs. Find your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center
What if I’m not sure what kind of help I need? You can call 877-222-8387 to find the right resources for your needs. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 800-877-8339.
What other options do I have?
How To Upgrade Your Military Discharge And Obtain Va Benefits
Thousands of service members across all branches have been separated involuntarily from the military after misconduct that resulted in an administrative separation or court-martial. Many of them are denied benefits as a result of the alleged misconduct and their so-called “bad paper” discharge.
But a prior service member, regardless of the classification of service or the nature of their discharge, never should give up hope. The record can be corrected to allow them to obtain life-changing benefits. Some benefits require an honorable discharge , while others require only an under honorable conditions discharge . A properly prepared application can have odds of success higher than 80% at certain boards.
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Who Can Help You Set The Record Straight
Attorney R. Davis Younts has been a JAG and a top-ranked Senior Defense Counsel in the Air Force. He knows what it takes to obtain a discharge upgrade or make a records correction, and he knows how to handle your appeal if your request is denied.
R. Davis Younts has been an attorney for eighteen years. He has received an Air Force Meritorious Service Medal and an Air Force Commendation Medal. He advises clients and represents defendants in both military and civilian legal matters.
Military discharge upgrade requests and military records correction requests are always complicated, and youll need a great deal of patience as well depending on your service, the process could take six months to two years.
Youll need to locate and gather any medical records, military records, or other documents that relate to your discharge upgrade request or to your records correction request. Medical records which indicate that you are not dealing with any alcohol or drug abuse issues are also helpful.
What You Should Know About Requesting A Military Discharge Upgrade
Your personal statement and statements from those who served with you are invaluable. Do your best to obtain statements from your former supervisors, first sergeant, commander, or others in your chain of command regarding your duty performance and facts and circumstances that may support your case to upgrade your discharge characterization. In most situations, the Boards focus on your conduct during your period of military service. However, in rare circumstances, Boards may upgrade a discharge based on post-service conduct.
Discharge upgrades are possible. Legal counsel who are familiar with the discharge process can provide you valuable advice on the strategy to upgrade your discharge and whether your case may warrant an upgrade or change in the reason for discharge. If you want to consult with counsel, it is always best to consult with counsel with experience in these types of cases as this is a very specialized area of military law.
You may also seek counsel or advice from a veterans organization for more information. Try your local VFW, American Legion, or similar organization as a starting point, and go from there.
Expect the application, review process and decision to take several months from start to finish depending upon the number of cases pending with your service. Applicants who opt to present their case in person generally have a more favorable chance of upgrade than those who do not appear in person assuming there is a basis for an upgrade.
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Option : Change In The Narrative Reason For Separation
The second way to change the characterization of your military discharge on your DD-214 Discharge Certificate, is to change the Narrative Reason for Separation. Among the many possible narrative reasons for separation listed on your DD-214 Certificate could be: misconduct, disability, personality disorder, homosexual conduct, to name just a few.
As long as youre within the deadlines discussed for a Discharge Upgrade, a DRB has the authority to also Change the Narrative Reason for Separation shown on your DD-214 unless of course, youre trying to change the reason for a discharge that was based on a disability, as discussed above.
The forms and procedures for applying for a Change in the Narrative Reason are the same as the forms and procedures for applying for a Discharge Upgrade. If the DRB lacks the authority to change the reason, or if it denies your application for a change, you can then apply to a BCMR or the BCNR.
Please note that the evidence you need to submit for a Change in the Narrative Reason for Separation may be somewhat different from what you would submit for a Discharge Upgrade. For example, if the military discharged you with a narrative reason of personality disorder, but a psychiatrist or psychologist later diagnosed you with PTSD, youll want to submit evidence showing the new diagnosis.
Determine The Timelines For Applying To The Discharge Boards:
You have 15 years from the date of your discharge to apply to a DRB. To apply to a BCMR or the BCNR, you are required to apply within three years of the date you first discover the error or injustice that you are seeking to correct. There are three exceptions to this rule:
- First, if a DRB reviews your application and denies it, then you have three years from the date of the denial to apply to a BCMR or BCNR. This is true even if you first discovered the error or injustice much earlier than three years ago.
- Second, a BCMR or BCNR has the power to ignore, or waive, the three-year deadline in the interest of justice, which it often does, especially if youve laid out a good case for upgrading your discharge or given other good reasons, such as honestly explaining that you didnt know you were eligible to apply.
- Third, a BCMR or BCNR will waive the deadline if you are raising issues that involve Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and related conditions such as Traumatic Brain Injury .
Finally, if a board denies your application and it involved an issue of PTSD, TBI, mental health issue, or sexual assault or harassment, then you will want to familiarize yourself with the Hagel, Kurta, or Carter Memos issued by the Department of Defense .
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Can I Request The Records Of My Veteran If They Are Deceased
There are a few inconsistencies on the website that doesnt make it clear if a relative can make the request on behalf of their living relative. The website says next of kin of the veteran can ask for them if only the veteran is deceased. However, its not clear there is a barrier to stop kin from doing the online request form on behalf of the living veteran. Also the instructions seem to be inconsistent in parts of the webpage. The website says if you are the next of kin of a deceased veteran, you must provide proof of death of the veteran such as a copy of death certificate, letter from funeral home, or published obituary. In this regard, if you do not have the necessary documents, you can try here or on other genealogy websites to find any published obituary or other information about the deceased.
What Do I Do If I Have A Bad Discharge
Apply for VA compensation or pension through eBenefits or your local Veterans Service Office. This will trigger a Character of Service review at the VA regional office to determine if your service was honorable for purposes of VA health care and compensation.
You will likely be denied compensation if you have an Other Than Honorable discharge. If you have a General Discharge you are generally eligible for all VA benefits except the GI Bill.
Its very important to submit evidence that your service was honorable in order to have the best chance of being found eligible for benefits.
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An Urgent Need During Covid
To earn upgrades, the UNC team must prove servicemembers original discharge statuses are no longer fair. As they compile records, draft briefs, and make arguments towards obtaining upgrades, they also help these veterans who have improperly been denied health care benefits for years.
Across the United States, there are more than 1,200 Veterans Health Administration facilities. Each year, nine million veterans used VA health care services.
On average, 17 American veterans commit suicide each day. While veterans make up less than one-half of one percent of the U.S. population, they comprise more than 13% of all suicides. This year, advocates say securing health care has become even more paramount for aging veterans.
We have a generation of folks trying to get discharge upgrades, to get their foot in the door to get health care, Brooker said of Vietnam War veterans. And because COVIDs aggravating conditions happen to match perfectly with the health problems that were caused during Vietnam, they are more susceptible to bad outcomes with COVID.
In July, the U.S. House’s Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing on military discharge upgrades and veterans health care access. Representatives called on the VA to enhance staff training to ensure all eligible veterans received health care. Several committee members also questioned why the rate of bad paper discharges is rising.
Can I Get Disability Compensation Or Other Benefits From Va
You can’t get compensation for the traumatic event itself. But you may be able to get disability compensation for conditions resulting from MSTlike PTSD .
Or get help applying for disability compensation by:
- Reading our fact sheet on disability compensation for conditions related to MST.
- Talking to the MST coordinator at your nearest VA regional office. Find an MST coordinator near you
Mistakes Can Happen And You Can Appeal Your Discharge
The military makes mistakes and these mistakes have a huge impact on you and your family. The Department of Defense wants all veterans to know that you have an opportunity to have your discharge and military records reviewed to correct any injustice.
Why? Because the Department of Defense wants to ensure that all Veterans who have sacrificed so much in service to our great Nation receive all of the benefits they deserve.
Important Features Added To Discharge Review Options
Before getting to the top 10 questions people ask about military discharge upgrades, its important to discuss the changes in military discharge review processes that occurred in early 2021.
The changes did not affect the basic requirements for service members to try to resolve their discharge review issues at the lowest possible level via each branch of services Discharge Review Boards and similar authorities discussed below.
But what is now available in addition to the resources listed below? A DoD-level review of individual military discharges is established as a final opportunity to appeal or change a discharged characterization. This DoD-wide discharge review board is known as DARB and is open to service members with separation dates on or after December 20, 2019.
Like other discharge review opportunities, DARB does not automatically review any recordsthe service member or next-of-kin must request the review and supply documentation in a similar manner to all other discharge review opportunities.
DARB provides final review of discharge or dismissal characterization upgrade requests when petitioners have exhausted all available administrative remedies. You can get more information on options under DARB at the DARB official site.
1. Whats The Difference Between The Narrative Reason For Discharge and Character Of Service on the DD214?
Character of Service can found in Box 24 and the Narrative Reason For Separation can be found in Box 28 of the DD214.
What Is The Procedure For Obtaining An Upgrade
You can apply to the Discharge Review Board of your branch of the service for a discharge upgrade or a change in the discharge reason . Each service branch has its own DRB, which is tasked with evaluating discharge upgrade requests.
The procedures for upgrading discharges are governed by service regulations and can be complex and cumbersome. While the DRBs for each service are different, they all follow the same general guidance from the Department of Defense. However, each DRB each has its own distinct process for filing an upgrade.
So long as your discharge was not part of a general courts-martial, the applicable DRB has the authority to review your discharge. In doing so, the DRB may examine, change, modify or correct the characterization of service and the for your discharge.
The first step in requesting an update is to complete an Application for Review of Discharge From the Armed Services of the United States . You can obtain this form online, but just make sure you are using the most updated version of this form. It is important to be thorough when completing this form, as any issues that you fail to list cannot be considered by the board, even if you or your attorney tries to raise them later on.
In considering whether to grant you an upgrade, the DRB can consider the circumstances surrounding your discharge, your service record in its entirety, whether the discharge was fair and proper, as well as your life outside of the military.
How Do I Get A Discharge Upgrade
Created by FindLaw’s team of legal writers and editors| Last updated June 20, 2016
Military service members are discharged for many reasons, including disability and as punishment for bad conduct. Discharges can saddle veterans with the stigma of having served dishonorably and even strip them of their benefits. But did you know that you can challenge your discharge status? All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces allow veterans access to a review board with authority to issue a “discharge upgrade,” although such upgrades are not very common.
For example, an Army veteran who received a “general” discharge believes his commanding officer was biased and should have given him an “honorable” discharge . The veteran must prove to the Army Discharge Review Board that it reached its decision in error in order to obtain a discharge upgrade.
This article covers the basics of how to pursue a discharge upgrade, with links to the appropriate military websites and information about the role of a civilian lawyer. See FindLaw’s Military Law section for additional resources.
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Five: Put Together Your Application Forms And Supporting Materials
Itâs easy to download the forms youâll need:
For a BCMR or BCNR application , visit
But before you begin to fill out the form, youâll need to do some homework. The first step is to make certain you have all the documents youâll need.
Your Official Military Personnel File is crucial. Play it safe: order a complete copyâeven if you think you already have one. A missing document could be the one that makesâor torpedoesâyour case. For information about ordering your OMPF, review our guide. Itâs at .
Court-martial transcripts and records of military investigations may also be crucial to your case. For information about ordering these documents, including sample request letters you can use, review our guide on this topic at .
But please note: You may not be able to obtain copies of your service personnel and medical records once you file your application. The Board may obtain these records to adjudicate your application. At that point, you may not be able to order your own copies of these records. Thatâs why itâs important to get all of your records before you submit your application.
Check the status of your application and timeline for a decision by contacting the appropriate Board: