The commitment to serve in any branch of the United States military is admirable, and veterans should be supported and recognized for their sacrifices while they are serving and once they have left the military. Finding the necessary information, resources, and support after you have been discharged can be a difficult process, but there are tools and steps in place to make the transition easier. One thing that could offer a much-needed boost is completing a military discharge upgrade, and the team at Williams Stone, PC, are here to help.
What Is A Military Discharge?
When your time with the military ends, regardless of circumstances, you will be given a discharge. This outlines the reason you are no longer in military service and could have an impact on the benefits you are able to receive. There are eight total types of military discharge that are separated into two overarching categories: administrative and punitive.
Administrative discharges are the most common and are typically given to veterans who have completed their service well. The three primary administrative discharges are an honorable discharge, a general discharge under honorable conditions, and an other-than-honorable discharge. Medical discharge, separation for the convenience of the government, and entry-level separation are also considered administrative discharges.
Punitive discharges occur in circumstances where an individual has not performed their service honorably. The two types of punitive discharge are bad conduct discharge and dishonorable discharge. Both types of punitive discharge are a type of punishment and require a court-martial to be completed. Receiving a punitive discharge will have a negative impact on your future because it will restrict or eliminate your eligibility for benefits and potentially bar you from certain careers. Regardless of the type of discharge you receive, it is important that the information for your discharge is correct.
Why Should Your Records Be Correct?
Ensuring that your discharge record contains accurate information is essential to receiving the benefits that you may be entitled to as a veteran. If there is an informational error in your record, then you may be overlooked or denied benefits and resources that you are entitled to.
You may also wish to amend your record if there is a history of disciplinary action. Reprimands and discipline during your military career may reflect poorly on you, hinder your future job prospects, or make you ineligible for benefits that you need. In these situations, you may be able to correct your record through the process of a military discharge upgrade.
What Is A Military Discharge Upgrade?
Individuals who receive anything other than an honorable discharge may be able to apply for a discharge upgrade. When you pursue a military discharge upgrade, it often indicates that you believe the reason for your discharge was incorrect or unfair and you would like your case to be reviewed again. While you may still be eligible for certain benefits through the VA with a discharge that was less than honorable, an upgrade may expand your benefits significantly.
The process of requesting and receiving a discharge upgrade is lengthy and can be confusing. It can also be difficult for a discharge upgrade application to be approved. Certain circumstances, such as sexual assault or mental illness, can improve your chances of acceptance, but it is still an arduous process. You will be required to submit a plethora of evidence from your military and civilian life to support your case, regardless of the circumstances.
Who Can Apply For A Military Discharge Upgrade?
In most cases, military service records can only be accessed by the individual who served and their immediate family. If you believe that your discharge record needs to be reviewed, corrected, or upgraded, you will be required to complete the process yourself. If you are unable to complete the process on your own, a family member can request your record and begin the process on your behalf.
How To Upgrade Your Military Discharge
The process of requesting a military discharge upgrade is relatively simple. However, the process can be time-consuming because of the evidence required. If you want to pursue a discharge upgrade, you will first need to compile and provide a discharge upgrade packet to either the Board of Corrections for Military Records (BCMR) or the Discharge Review Board (DRB). The board that you submit your package to is determined by how long ago you were discharged. If your discharge occurred within the last fifteen years, then you will submit to the DRB. If you were discharged more than fifteen years ago, you will have to submit to the BCMR.
Once your discharge upgrade package has been submitted, the review board connected with your specific military branch will review your request and make a decision. This process often takes at least a year, if not longer. To increase your chances of success, it is imperative that you provide enough evidence to support your case. Evidence from your military service may include records of combat tours, any glowing evaluations or instances of good conduct, and any awards you may have received. Civilian evidence could include character references, employment records, and your criminal history.
There are two ways you can complete this process: a records review or a personal hearing. If you choose a records review, the DRB will pull your military service records for analysis, along with any other evidence you provide, and make a decision based solely on that information. If you appear before the DRB in person, you will have an opportunity to testify and plead your case. This option also gives you the opportunity to bring other witnesses and evidence to support your claims. Whatever decision the board makes is final, but you may appeal to the Board of Corrections for Military Records.
Whether you are seeking a military discharge upgrade for yourself or for a family member, the process can be confusing and overwhelming. Working with an attorney who is well versed in the requirements of military discharge upgrades can provide you with peace of mind and confidence as you submit your request and complete the review. With over five decades of experience, the team at Williams Stone, PC, will walk with you through the entire process to see that you receive the recognition and benefits that you deserve. Contact us today to get started.