UPGRADES TO DISCHARGES
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 discharge status. 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 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.
Types of Military Discharges
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.
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
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.
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 253-212-9582 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.