No matter the branch of service, there is one thing that all service members have in common: the desire to see their time in the military rewarded with an honorable discharge. Unfortunately, sometimes, a service member may get an other-than-honorable discharge, a bad conduct discharge, or a dishonorable discharge.
In these instances, receiving a discharge upgrade is essential for service members to ensure their military record reflects their contributions to their country. It can be a difficult process, though, as service members must navigate the complex paperwork and regulations needed to get an upgrade. Fortunately, some steps can be taken to give service members more control and confidence in the upgrade process.
In this article, our UCMJ criminal defense lawyers at Griffin Law Defense will discuss these steps and how to get the best possible outcome from your discharge upgrade request.
Eligibility: Who Can Apply for a Discharge Upgrade?
Anyone who served in the U.S. military can apply for a discharge upgrade. This includes those currently serving, veterans who are no longer on active duty, and members of the National Guard or Reserves, regardless of their current status. It's important to note that applying for an upgrade does not imply that one is automatically eligible; instead, it is merely a request for review by the Army or Air Force Discharge Review Board, the Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR), or the respective service DRB. The BCMR/BCNR and DRB are very different and are both distinguishable from administrative records correction boards that will accept record correction requests from active duty servicemembers.
When making decisions about eligibility, the board will consider some main factors:
i. injustice at the time of separation
ii. mental conditions
iii. traumatic brain injury (TBI)
iv. assault or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity
v. any other extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to an otherwise unfavorable discharge
The applicant must provide documentation supporting these claims if they wish to be considered eligible for an upgrade. In cases where applicants can demonstrate clear evidence proving their claims, the chances of being approved increase significantly.
Preparing Your Case: Documents and Evidence
Getting a discharge upgrade can be difficult but having the right documents and evidence can strengthen your case. Preparing all these materials beforehand is essential to make sure that your application is successful. So, what type of documents do you need when applying for a discharge upgrade?
In addition to downloading and filling out a DoD Form 149, it is vital to gather all relevant paperwork, such as military records, photos, letters from commanding officers, legal documents from court proceedings, or any other material that proves evidence of your eligibility. Additionally, you should bring copies of medical reports or mental health evaluations if you are stating personal mental health issues were the cause for a misconduct discharge.
Timing of these petitions is crucial as each of them has their own statute of limitations. Seek legal counsel immediately if you think you might want to file a correction at some point. You should ask the attorney when it will be too late to file.
Having an experienced lawyer represent you is highly recommended when seeking a discharge upgrade, as they are specialized in this area and can help guide you through the process. Our military law attorneys at Griffin Law Defense can help you with thorough preparation, which makes all the difference required to achieve a positive outcome.