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Navigating Navy Evaluation and Fitness Report Appeals

Adverse reports can cast a long shadow over your career.

Whether your report contains a trait grade of 1.0, a “Significant Problems” mark, or comments suggesting a serious lack of qualifications, it’s classified as legally adverse. They can severely impact your future in the Navy. But there’s recourse.

As legal professionals specializing in military law, we offer expert guidance to Sailors navigating the complexities of the appeals process for Fitness Reports (FITREPs), Chief Evaluations (CHIEFEVALs), or Evaluations (EVALs).

The following summary, based on Chapter 17 of BUPERSINST 1610.10F, outlines essential strategies and legal avenues to safeguard your professional record and rights:

The Appeal Process Unveiled

Did you receive a legally adverse report or evaluation?  If the report or evaluation contains a trait grade of 1.0, a promotion recommendation mark of “Significant Problems,” Command or Organizational Climate/Equal Opportunity trait graded below 3.0 for E-1 through E-6 and W-1 through O-6 reports, or a trait grade less than 3.0 in “Character” on E-7 through E-9 reports; has more than two traits graded as 2.0; or contains comments indicating severe weakness, incapacity, or lack of qualifications for promotion or assignment.

Statement Concerning Adverse Report:  A FITREP, CHIEFEVAL, or EVAL containing adverse matter must be referred to the Sailor for a statement.  We can help you draft this statement.

What if I received a mediocre report?  A report will not be considered adverse solely because it may make the member less competitive than another for promotion or assignment.  This mediocre report is not legally adverse, but you know you will cause you problems in your career.  Understand the reporting senior has a lot of discretion in evaluating you, so competent legal counsel may be necessary to advocate on your behalf to save your career if you receive a non-adverse but still career-ending report.

Statement to the Record

As a service member, you can submit a statement for the record if you believe your evaluation does not accurately reflect your performance or capabilities. This statement, which must be endorsed by the original reporting senior and forwarded to PERS-32, is your opportunity to clarify, correct, or provide additional context to the evaluation.

Crafting Your Statement

When crafting your statement, focus on factual accuracy and relevance to your performance and duties. Avoid emotional language or unnecessary details that do not directly relate to the specifics of the evaluation. Be concise yet comprehensive in explaining why you believe the assessment is incorrect or unfair. If possible, provide evidence or examples to support your claims.  Making a statement for the record is a powerful tool, offering a pathway to ensure your evaluations truly reflect your performance and contributions to the Navy.

Remember, accuracy, clarity, and adherence to procedural guidelines are your allies in this process.

Legal Perspective and Strategy

From a legal standpoint, it’s crucial to understand the weight of such statements in the broader context of your military career. A well-crafted statement can significantly impact your professional trajectory, highlighting your commitment to accuracy, fairness, and professionalism. It’s advisable to seek legal counsel or advice from a mentor experienced in these matters to ensure your statement is effective and aligns with Navy policies and procedures.

The appeal process for FITREPs, CHIEFEVALs, or EVALs encompasses several formal procedures, each tailored to address specific grievances or errors. Recognizing the right approach to take is pivotal in mounting a successful appeal.

If you question the accuracy or fairness of your FITREP, CHIEFEVAL, or EVAL, the initial step is to converse with your reporting senior directly. This dialogue is often the most straightforward path to resolving misunderstandings or errors.

Moreover, under the US Navy Regulations of 1990, specifically Article 1151, you possess the right to formally request a “mast.” A “mast” is a naval term for an official hearing, and this process allows you to bring forth issues about your evaluation directly to the Commanding Officer (CO).

However, suppose these initial steps fail to rectify the situation, and you believe that the contents of your report cannot be accurately conveyed or corrected through a statement to the record or through communications with a selection board. In that case, you have the legal right to seek a more formal resolution.

In such cases, you can request that your report be officially investigated. This may lead to modifications, removal, or even replacement of the evaluation document. The procedural specifics for this course of action are outlined in subsequent steps, which we can discuss in detail to prepare your case effectively.

It’s essential to approach these matters with a strategic mindset and comprehensive legal understanding. As your counsel, we will guide you through each step, ensuring that your rights are fully exercised and that your professional record accurately reflects your service and performance.

Initial Review and Informal Appeals

Your first step involves seeking an informal review by the Immediate Superior in Command (ISIC), who must assess the member’s performance. A Sailor has just ten days after seeing their report to submit a request. This review should be completed within 20 days of receiving the request. Service members can escalate their appeal through formal channels if dissatisfied with the ISIC’s feedback.

Formal Appeal Avenues

  1. Correction of Naval Records (Article 1126): This route allows you to petition the Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR) to correct errors or remove injustices in your report. Petitions are made using the DD Form 149, which must be meticulously prepared and submitted well before any selection board meetings – ideally, at least four months prior.
  2. Redress of Wrong (Article 1150 and UCMJ Article 138): If your issue involves a wrong committed by a superior, you can file a complaint under these provisions. The process requires submitting your complaint as prescribed by Navy regulations, emphasizing timely submission to ensure consideration and potential relief.
  3. Privacy Act Requests: For inaccuracies in your report that are factual and not matters of opinion, you can request an amendment under the Privacy Act. These requests must be carefully prepared and submitted to the Bureau of Naval Personnel’s Office of Legal Counsel, adhering strictly to the guidelines and timelines provided.

Navigating the Appeal Process

Successfully navigating the appeal process demands a strategic and informed approach focused on three recommendations:

  • Timeliness: Ensuring all petitions and requests are submitted within the designated time frames is critical. Delays can significantly hinder the appeal’s success.
  • Evidence: Your appeal must be supported by compelling evidence and a clear justification for the requested changes. Mere dissatisfaction with evaluations is insufficient; concrete proof of errors or injustices is necessary.
  • Legal Representation: Considering the complexity of military law and the potential impact of these appeals on your career, seeking legal advice and representation is advisable. A legal professional specializing in military law can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout the appeal process.

Conclusion

Navigating the intricacies of the Navy Performance Evaluation System requires a proactive approach and a clear understanding of your rights and responsibilities.

Our firm is dedicated to ensuring Sailors’ records accurately and fairly reflect their service. Understanding and navigating these processes can be daunting, so we stand ready to provide comprehensive legal support and advocacy. Familiarizing yourself with these rights and procedures is the first step toward protecting your military career and future.

As legal advocates with expertise in military law, we can guide you through the intricacies of appealing your FITREP, CHIEFEVAL, or EVAL. Whether you’ve received an adverse or mediocre report that could hinder your career progression, the right legal strategy is crucial. With an in-depth understanding of Chapter 17 of BUPERSINST 1610.10F, we will help you articulate a compelling statement for the record, ensuring it aligns with Navy policies and procedures and reflects your actual performance.

Navigating the appeal process requires a timely and evidence-based approach. We offer comprehensive legal support, from the initial review to potential formal appeals, including Correction of Naval Records and Redress of Wrongs under Navy regulations and the UCMJ. We aim to ensure your professional record is a fair and accurate representation of your service, safeguarding your military career and future.

When facing the daunting prospect of appealing an adverse evaluation, remember this: you don’t have to do it alone. With our legal expertise, we can build a solid case to protect your rights and present your service record in the most accurate light. From crafting a statement for the record to engaging with selection boards, we are here to ensure your voice is heard and your career is defended.

It’s about more than just correcting a document—it’s about ensuring that your dedication, skills, and service are fairly represented. Contact us to begin the process of appealing your Navy evaluation. Together, we will navigate the complexities of the appeals process to safeguard your professional future.

Our Practice Areas

Being a former service member herself and working exclusively on military cases, Ms. Stewart has amassed experience to help in the following areas of the UCMJ:

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When faced with the decision of hiring a UCMJ specialist, Ms. Stewart’s former clients explain all that is necessary about her commitment to their case and her expertise in handling the toughest legal battles. Learn more about her unique abilities in the words of her clients, peers, and military judges.