Upgrade Military Discharge

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After sacrificing so much for your country, it is imperative that your military records fairly reflect your service. After a person leaves the military, they will receive a copy of DD Form 214. This form is also known as a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. It contains extensive information regarding one’s military record and their separation from the armed forces. One of the most important details included is one’s military discharge status. Call our military law attorneys to discuss how to upgrade your military discharge status.

Military Discharge Upgrade Attorney

Unfortunately, many hard-working military service members unfairly receive discharges that are less than honorable. Receiving a discharge that is unjust will impact you in many ways and can cause you tremendous long-term damage. Indeed, your discharge status will affect your ability to receive many veterans’ benefits and to seek employment in the future.

the best military discharge upgrade lawyerThe good news is that veterans who have received an unfair discharge have legal options available to seek an upgrade. At the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart, our experienced UCMJ attorneys work aggressively to protect the rights of veterans, and we have helped many former service members upgrade their discharge.

How Much Does A Military Discharge Upgrade Lawyer Cost?

The cost of hiring a lawyer to assist with a military discharge upgrade can vary widely depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the lawyer’s experience and location, and the amount of research and documentation required. Here are some general points to consider:

  1. Hourly Rates: Many attorneys charge by the hour for legal services. Rates can range from $150 to $500 per hour or more (call our law firm pricing), depending on the attorney’s expertise and the geographic location.

  2. Flat Fees: Some attorneys may offer a flat fee for handling a discharge upgrade case. This can be beneficial as it allows for budgeting and eliminates the uncertainty of how many billable hours the case might take. Flat fees for these types of cases typically range from $1,500 to $5,000 or more, depending on the case’s complexity (call our law firm for pricing).

  3. Contingency Fees: Contingency fees are not typically used in military discharge upgrade cases because these cases do not involve financial settlements from which fees can be deducted.

  4. Free or Low-Cost Services: Some organizations and legal clinics offer free or low-cost services to veterans seeking to upgrade their discharge status. Veterans may also seek assistance from Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), which can provide free guidance and sometimes have resources or recommendations for legal help.

  5. Initial Consultation: Many lawyers offer a free initial consultation, which can be used to get an idea of the potential costs and chances of success in upgrading a military discharge.

It’s important for veterans to thoroughly discuss fees and payment structures with potential attorneys before deciding to proceed. This discussion should include any additional costs that might arise, such as fees for obtaining military records or the cost of expert testimonies if needed.

Types of Military Discharges

Honorable Discharge

An honorable discharge tells the world that you were a person who served in the military with distinction. Just as importantly, it ensures that you will have access to the full extent of the benefits that are offered to veterans.

General Discharge

A general discharge sends message that your service was overall satisfactory but that you likely also had some level of disciplinary, conduct or performance issues in the military. This type of discharge could reduce your ability to obtain veterans’ benefits and it may make it more difficult to get a good job as a civilian.

Other than Honorable Discharge

A discharge that is other than honorable can cause you tremendous problems. It indicates that there was a serious problem with your service. Not only are many employers reluctant to hire veterans with this mark on their record, but it will cost you access to many veterans’ benefits.

Bad-Conduct or a Dishonorable Discharge

This is the most serious type of discharge and it carries tremendous stigma. In many cases, this type of discharge will be imposed by a court-martial and therefore it will not be eligible for review or upgrade.

Entry Level Separation

This type of discharge is generally reserved for individuals who were in the service for less than six months. Technically speaking, this is not an adverse discharge. However, it can still carry some negative connotations and it is often worth seeking an upgrade.

How to Upgrade Your Military Discharge

Each branch of the service operates its own Discharge Review Board (DRB), with the exception of the United States Marine Corps. The Navy DRB handles cases for the Marines. Generally, these review boards consist of five active duty officers or senior leaders. Under United States law, DRBs have the authority to upgrade any level of discharge except for those that resulted from a court-martial. The process of requesting an upgrade to your discharge begins with filling out DD Form 293. This form is titled the Application for the Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces of the United States. When completing the form, you will be asked to fill out the following sections:

  • Section 1 and Section 2: These two sections are for basic background information, including personal information and contact information. Section 1 should be filled out by those who are filing on behalf of themselves, while section 2 is for those filling it out on behalf of another party.
  • Section 3: Here, you should indicate your desired result.  
  • Section 4: In this section, you will decide how you want your case reviewed. You can appear before an DRB in person, either in Washington D.C. or at a travelling location or you can simply submit your records for review. When possible, it is always better to appear in person with an attorney by your side. Appearing in person will dramatically increase your odds of success.
  • Section 5 and Section 6: These two sections are where you indicate whether or not you will be represented by an attorney in this review process. While being represented by an attorney is not required, it is always in your best interest to work with a qualified attorney.
  • Section 7: Here, you should include any evidence or documentation that supports your claim.
  • Section 8: In this section, you will explain, in detail, why you should receive an upgrade to your discharge.  
  • Section 9: Finally, you must certify the veracity of the information included and sign and date the document.

See also…Removal of Derogatory Information from Military Record.

Three More Things You Need to Know About Upgrades to Discharges

  • A Decision Will Usually Take Several Months

In most cases, it takes several months to receive a decision from Discharge Review Board (DRB). Of course, this will always depend on the complexity of your case and the backlog at the specific branch of service at the time that you are applying.

  • The DRB Will Only Hear Cases From the Last Fifteen Years

If your case relates to a discharge that occurred more than fifteen years ago, then the DRB will not review your case. The good news for those who are seeking upgrade of an older discharge is that there is another option available. You can seek a correction of your military records. To be clear: This is a different and slightly more complex process. Those who have the opportunity to do so should apply for an upgrade to discharge through their service branch’s DRB.

  • Success Is Not Easy, You Need an Experienced Attorney

Veterans should not try to get an upgrade to their discharge on their own. Please seek out an attorney who has a proven track records of successfully helping protect the rights and interests of veterans. At the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart, we can help you get the discharge you rightfully deserve. If you have any questions about upgrades to discharge, please do not hesitate to call us today at 253-317-8494 to set up a review of your case. From our office in Tacoma, Washington, we serve clients throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska and at military bases around the world, including in Germany, Italy, South Korea and Japan.

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Discharge Upgrade Attorney FAQ

When is there a statutory bar to discharge upgrade?

If you accepted a discharge in lieu of going to a court martial, then you may not ever apply for or receive an upgrade to your military discharge status. The video below give more information.

Can I reenlist with a general discharge?

Reenlisting in the military with a general discharge (under honorable conditions) is possible, but it depends on several factors, including the specific reasons for the discharge and the policies of the particular branch of the military you are attempting to reenter.

  1. Reenlistment Eligibility: Each discharge comes with a reenlistment code (RE code) found on the service member’s DD-214 discharge form. This code indicates whether the individual is eligible to reenlist:
    • RE-1 codes generally mean you are eligible to reenlist.
    • RE-3 codes might allow reenlistment with a waiver, depending on the circumstances.
    • RE-4 codes typically indicate that the individual is not eligible to reenlist.
  2. Waivers: If the discharge reason and associated RE code do not automatically permit reenlistment, you may apply for a waiver. The likelihood of obtaining a waiver can vary based on the need for personnel in specific roles, overall recruitment goals, and the circumstances surrounding your initial discharge.
  3. Branch Policies: Each branch of the military has its own criteria and policies regarding reenlistment after a general discharge. It’s important to check the specific requirements for the branch you are interested in.

If you’re considering reenlistment, it’s advisable to speak directly with a recruiter or a military legal advisor who can provide guidance based on the specifics of your discharge and current military needs. They can also assist you in understanding the process of applying for a waiver if necessary.

What are the other than honorable discharge consequences?

An other than honorable (OTH) discharge from the military can have significant consequences, affecting a veteran’s life in various ways:

  1. Veterans Benefits: One of the most impactful consequences is the potential loss of veterans benefits. Individuals with an OTH discharge may be ineligible for GI Bill benefits, VA home loans, and disability compensation.
  2. Employment Opportunities: An OTH discharge can also affect future employment opportunities. Some employers may ask about military service and discharge status, and an OTH discharge might influence their hiring decisions, especially in government and defense-related sectors.
  3. Reenlistment: Those who receive an OTH discharge are generally ineligible to reenlist in any branch of the armed forces.
  4. Social Stigma: There can be a social stigma associated with an OTH discharge. Veterans may face challenges in their communities or social circles, where people might view an OTH discharge negatively compared to honorable conditions.
  5. Access to Services: Veterans with an OTH discharge often find it more challenging to access services aimed at veterans, such as state employment resources, educational benefits, and certain healthcare services.
  6. VA Healthcare: Access to VA healthcare might be limited. Eligibility for VA medical care depends on several factors, including the nature of the discharge, so veterans with an OTH discharge might find they are not eligible for some or all VA healthcare services.

Given these potential consequences, it’s crucial for service members facing discharge to seek legal counsel to explore all options and possibly mitigate the effects of an OTH discharge.

How common are successful discharge upgrades?

Successfully upgrading a military discharge status can be challenging and depends heavily on the specific circumstances surrounding the original discharge. The success rate varies significantly based on the reasons for the discharge, the evidence presented, and the branch of service. Here are a few factors that influence the likelihood of a successful discharge upgrade:

  1. Reasons for Discharge: Discharges given for minor disciplinary issues or administrative reasons are more likely to be upgraded than those related to serious misconduct, such as violence or drug use.
  2. Evidence of Error or Injustice: Successful applications often demonstrate that the original discharge was unjust or improperly administered. This might include showing changes in policies (like those affecting LGBTQ+ service members in the past) or errors in the discharge process.
  3. Post-Discharge Conduct: Evidence of good conduct and contributions to society after discharge can positively impact an upgrade request.
  4. Documentation: Providing comprehensive documentation, such as character references, medical records, or evidence of extenuating circumstances, is crucial.
  5. Legal Assistance: Veterans who seek help from attorneys or organizations experienced in military law typically have higher success rates, as these professionals know how to navigate the complex application process effectively.

Overall, while there are no guaranteed outcomes and the process can be quite rigorous, veterans with legitimate grounds for an upgrade and strong supporting documentation have a reasonable chance of success, especially with professional assistance. However, it’s important to note that the process can be lengthy, often taking several months or even years.

Can I upgrade my military discharge after 15 years?

Yes, you can apply to upgrade your military discharge even after 15 years. There is no statute of limitations on applying for a discharge upgrade. However, the process can be challenging, and the likelihood of success often depends on providing compelling new evidence or demonstrating that the original discharge was unjust or issued in error.

To pursue an upgrade, you would typically apply through the appropriate service branch’s Discharge Review Board (DRB) for reviews within 15 years of discharge, or the Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) if more than 15 years have elapsed. The BCMR can address more complex issues and has broader powers to change records when justified.

When applying, it’s important to provide as much relevant information as possible, including:

  1. Evidence of error or injustice: This could include new evidence or documentation not previously considered.
  2. Positive post-service conduct: Evidence of good conduct, community service, and other rehabilitative efforts can support your case.
  3. Supporting statements: Letters from employers, family, or community leaders can help demonstrate your character and rehabilitation.

It’s often beneficial to seek guidance from a legal professional experienced in military law to strengthen your application.