“Sometimes the less said…the better.” Very few veterans take advantage of a Pentagon policy designed to make it easier for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to upgrade their discharge status and become eligible to apply for veterans’ benefits, according to a Yale Law Clinic report.…
Upgrading a Miltary Discharge, How to Apply, Correcting a Military Record and Applying to a BCMR
by Kathleen Hoffman ·
Upgrading a Military Discharge
Thousands of men & women leave the service each year with a general (called"under honorable conditions"), undesirable (called "other than honorable conditions"), bad-conduct, or dishonorable discharges. As many as 3 million such bad discharges have been give.Veterans who want to upgrade a discharge to become eligible for VA benefits or for any other reason should know that the process is completley private--no one will interview the veteran's neighbors or employer.
How to Apply
A veteran can get a discharge upgrade from either a DRB (Discharge Review Board) or a BCMR (Board of Correction to Military Records).
The boards are mostly looking for evidence that the veteran's discharge was unfair, would not happen today, or was in violation of military regulations. They want to discover why the veteran believes he or she was treated unfairly and should have been given a better discharge.
The following bases for discharge may offer reasonable hope for an upgrade: alcohol-related misconduct, homosexual tendencies;non-aggravated homosexual acts; venereal disease; fraudulent enlistment without the intent to defraud;
personality or character and behavior disorder unsupported by a psychiatric
drug possession prior to 1972; enuresis; failure to pay debts or support dependents; civilian conduct that occurred while veteran was in inactive reserves; and old cases when a veteran had had a clean civilian life.
Before applying for a change in military records, a veteran should review his/her service and medical records to refresh his/her memory and to see what the official record says, even though the official version may not be the whole story. Veterans can order their records from the National Personnel Records Center.
After reviewing military personnel and service records, the veteran should fill out the application for. In general if the discharge is less than 15 years old and it is a general or undesirable discharge, or a bad-conduct discharge from a special court-martial, a veteran should apply to a DRB by filing a DD Form 293, "Application for the Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces of the United States."
If the discharge is older than 15 years, a veteran should apply to a BCMR by filing a DD Form 149, "Application for Correction of Military Record Under the Provisions of Title 10, U.S.Code, Section 1552." A veteran with a bad-conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge from a general court-martial must apply to a BCmR, because a DRB cannot upgrade those discharges.
Although a completed application is really the only thing a veteran is required to submit, the chances of success are greatly increased if he/she also submits a brief--a summary of the argument in favor of the upgrade--and appropriate evidence. Letters of recommendations from colleagues and others can help. A copy of a good credit rating from the local credit bureau is important if the veteran was discharged for bad debts. When a veteran contacts these people for letters, he/she should just ask for a character reference addressed"To Whom It May Concern." The point is to show that what happened in service was not the measure of the veteran's true character.
Also, a veteran can request a personal hearing in front of the board. Requesting a hearing may be taken as a sign of sincerity and gives him/her an opportunity to present oral testimony. DRBs hear cases in Washington, D.C., but may also travel to regional locations if there are enough requests from that region. BCMR cases are heard in Washington, D.C., only, however. These boards rarely grant appearance hearings.
A veteran who loses at a DRB but did not appear personally can ask for another hearing, this time in person. If a veteran loses at a DRB,he/she can apply to a BCMR. Although the rule is that a veteran mus apply to the BCMR within 3 years after discovering an error; if a veteran has filed a DRB within 15 years of discharge, the 3 year BCMR period does not start to run until the DRB had denied the claim. The BCMRs may upgrade cases turned down by the DRBs; these boards often think good conduct since discharge is very important and can up grade a discharge for that reason alone.
Correcting a Military Record
Each BCMR establishes its own regulations, subject to approval from theSecretary of Defense, so each service's board may have slightly different rules.
A BCMR has the power to:
.....Upgrade all less than fully honorable discharges;
.....Change the basis for a discharge or void a discharge;
.....Reinstate a veteran in military service (rarely granted)
.....Erase disciplinary actions or change performance evaluations;
.....Credit more active duty time to permit VA benefits;
.....Order a promotion;
.....Change the reason for discharge;
.....Place a veteran on the retired rolls;
.....Overrule adverse line-of-duty;
.....Remove statutory bars to veterans' benefits.
.....Lower a discharge characterization;
.....Compel the attendance of witnesses;
.....Remove a post 1951 court-martial conviction.
Applyingto a BCMR
The process of applying to a BMCR to correct a military record is basically the same as that used to apply for a discharge upgrade:
send away for service & medical records; carefully fill out the correct application form (especially questions about the date of discovery of the error and why the 3-year period should be waived),and gather and submit other evidence to support the case. If the veteran is denied relief, he/she may submit new evidence and request reconsideration.
Any veteran who wants to appeal a BCMR denial to federal court should hire an attorney. Generally, a denial by a BCMR of a claim not involving any money can be appealed to federal district court within 6 years after denial.
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