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Discharge Upgrades

Last Modified: 09/28/2020

Did something happen during your military service that caused you to receive a less-than-honorable discharge such as a General, Other than Honorable, Bad Conduct, or Dishonorable discharge? If there are mitigating factors, you may be able to upgrade your discharge certificate (DD Form 214) and become eligible for various veterans’ benefits.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?

Your discharge will never be automatically upgraded. You must take steps to file for a discharge upgrade. There is no guarantee you will be granted an upgrade.  The burden of proof is on you, the veteran, to show that the military made a mistake while discharging you. This is a difficult process and it is best if you consult with an attorney or a veterans service officer to assist you in preparing the best possible case. 

If you believe your discharge characterization was wrong, or that the narrative reason for separation or reentry codes are unfair, you must petition the Discharge Review Board (DRB) or Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR) for your military service branch. 

Discharge upgrade requests are NOT processed by the V.A. The National Archives website is the best online source for the forms as they are updated or changed over time. 

Each service branch has its own Discharge Review Board and its own Board for Correction of Military Records. Refer to the information on forms DD Form 149 and DD 293 to learn which DRB or BCMR is right for you. We have also provided a list of relevant DRBs and BCMRs here on this page.

 

Army — Army Review Boards Agency
251 18th Street South, Suite 385
Arlington, VA 22202-3531
http://arba.army.pentagon.mil

Air Force — Air Force Review Boards Agency
SAF/MRBR
550-C Street West, Suite 40
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4742
https://www.afjag.af.mil/Contact-Us/JAJA/Upgrading-Discharge/

Coast Guard — Commandant (CG-133)
ATTN: Office of Military Personnel
US Coast Guard Stop 7907
2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. S.E. Washington, DC 20593
https://www.uscg.mil/Resources/legal/DRB/

Navy & Marine Corps — Secretary of the Navy
Council of Review Boards
ATTN: Naval Discharge Review Board
720 Kennon Ave. S.E., Suite 309
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5023
https://www.secnav.navy.mil/mra/CORB/pages/ndrb/default.aspx

You may download a complete list from the top right corner of this page.

Army — Army Review Boards Agency
251 18th Street South, Suite 385
Arlington, VA 22202-3531
https://arba.army.pentagon.mil/abcmr-overview.html

Air Force — Board for Correction of Air Force Records
SAF/MRBR
550-C Street West, Suite 40
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4742
https://www.afpc.af.mil/Career-Management/Military-Personnel-Records/

Coast Guard — Department of Homeland Security
Office of the General Counsel
Board for Correction of Military Records
245 Murray Lane,
Stop 0485
Washington, DC 20528-0485
https://www.uscg.mil/Resources/legal/BCMR/

Navy & Marine Corps — Board for Correction of Naval Records
701 S. Courthouse Road, Suite 1001
Arlington, VA 22204-2490
https://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/career/recordsmanagement/Pages/BCNR.aspx

You may download a complete list from the top right corner of this page.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?

If you were discharged from the military less than 15 years ago, you must file a DD Form 293 (Application for Review of Discharge from the Armed Forces) to petition the DRB to upgrade your discharge. If you were discharged more than 15 years ago, or if you have a special situation that the Discharge Review Board cannot address, you will have to apply to the Board of Correction of Military Records with a DD Form 149 (Application for Correction of Military Record…). If you are eligible to have your case considered by the DRB, you must do that before seeking review at the BCMR.  

Complete the DD 293 and attach any relevant military awards, civilian awards/achievements, letters of support, and a notarized personal statement explaining to the DRB why you think your discharge should be upgraded.

The DRB gives you the option of asking for a personal hearing, but be aware that travel to the hearing (most are in the Washington, DC area) will be at your own expense.  

You can also ask for a record review only, meaning you do not have to appear for a hearing and the DRB considers your case based only on the records you submit and any records they obtain.

Complete the DD 149 and attach any relevant military awards, civilian awards/achievements, letters of support, and a notarized personal statement explaining to the BCMR why you think your discharge should be upgraded.

Although there is an option on the DD 149 to request a personal hearing, the BCMRs very rarely grant them so plan to submit your best case on paper.

The BCMRs have a 3-year deadline to file after the “discovery of the injustice.” However, this deadline can be waived if you ask the BCMR to waive it based on a lack of legal advice or awareness of your rights. 

The BCMRs may waive the 3-year deadline based on memorandums written by Hagel and Kurta which outline special considerations for a veteran whose application is related to mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), sexual assault, or sexual harassment.

See the Additional Resources section of this page for links to these Hagel and Kurta memos, which were issued in 2014 and 2017 as a supplement to the formal review process. 

 

WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE TAKING ACTION?

The most important thing to remember before filing an upgrade application is not to simply submit the one-page application form to the DRB or BCMR. You will need to gather as much evidence as possible showing your good character, remorse for any mistakes you made during your military service, and mitigating factors such as combat tours, mental health diagnoses, and/or military sexual trauma. Rest assured that the boards cannot lower your discharge status, so there is no risk in applying.

You should know what is in your personnel file before filing.  There may be evidence in it that you can use.  If you do not request the personnel file before filing, then once your discharge upgrade application is filed, the personnel file will be with the board in which you filed and will not be released until a decision has been made.  You can request your personnel file by any of the means outlined by the VA at https://www.va.gov/records/get-military-service-records/.

Evidence to show post-service good citizenship can include, but is not limited to:

  • 3-5 character reference letters from people you served with in the military or civilians who have worked/volunteered with you and can speak to your good character;
  • Children’s birth certificates (if you live with or are financially supporting the children);
  • Marriage certificate (if currently married);
  • Proof of college attendance, degrees, awards;
  • List of volunteer work, service to a faith-based organization, etc.;
  • Proof of clean criminal record — you can request this at your local police department;
  •  Work history: self-reported or request your annual SSA Earnings Statement online https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/; and
  • VA mental health treatment records.

The National Archives’ Correcting Military Service page, which includes the fofms DD 149 and DD 293: https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/correct-service-records.html

The Wounded Warrior Project: https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

The Hagel Memo, which outlines special considerations for PTSD:  https://www.secnav.navy.mil/mra/bcnr/Documents/HagelMemo.pdf

The Kurta Memo, which outlines special considerations for mental health issues, including PTSD, TBI, sexual assault, and sexual harassment: https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Clarifying-Guidance-to-Military-Discharge-Review-Boards.pdf

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